Using Agritourism to Promote Local Foods
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Increasing the consumption of local foods can stimulate local economies and foster environmental sustainability (Sadler et al., 2015). Federal and State policies seek to increase local foods consumption to maximize these benefits, but have achieved varying levels of success (Martinez, 2016).
These mixed results call for identifying innovative and more effective approaches to promote local foods consumption. Agritourism — when working farms offer educational or recreational activities for visitors such as U-pick — has the potential to spark consumers’ interest in local foods and motivate support for local agricultural products (Gil Arroyo et al., 2013).
The positive impact of agritourism experiences on visitors’ perceptions of local foods and their intentions and willingness to advocate for and purchase local foods found in this study amplifies the already known economic (e.g., increase of profits), environmental (e.g., wildlife conservation), and socio-cultural (e.g., heritage preservation) benefits of agritourism.
These marketing benefits position agritourism as an effective way to reconnect agricultural producers with consumers and strengthen local food systems, which combined can contribute to local economies and promote sustainability over the long term. Thus, as family farms seek to remain competitive in changing agricultural markets, they may want to consider agritourism as a means to effectively promote local foods, which ultimately can increase their sales.
We suggest that farmers welcoming visitors on their farms undertake three main managerial actions to magnify the marketing role of agritourism: improve on-site educational signage, expand visitors’ opportunities to purchase locally grown/produced products, and facilitate visitors’ recommendation of agritourism and local foods to family and friends.
Policymakers seeking to promote local foods and local foods systems can refer to our study results to support family farms offering or seeking to offer agritourism. However, it is important to keep in mind that other obstacles to local foods consumption, such as availability at stores, may persist as substantial barriers. Thus, concerted efforts should seek to reduce physical (e.g., access) and personal (e.g., perceptions) barriers affecting local foods producers, agritourism farms, and the consumption of local foods.
Suggestions to magnify the marketing role of agritourism.
- Create signage or tours that highlight the benefits of local foods to communities and the environment.
- Expand opportunities to sell farm products on site and online, displaying the outlets where farm products can be purchased.
- Facilitate opportunities for visitors to share farm experiences with others by providing promotional materials (e.g., flyers).