Creative Placemaking, Art, Agriculture and Agritourism Central

(This document is an on-going study.  It was last updated Dec 13, 2016.)

Introduction

Agritourism is the concept of using a farm (or other food-based activity) as a destination and attraction in itself, instead of simply a food source.  It differs from rural tourism in that participants are actively engaged in direct location activities. It’s a vineyard inviting guests to stay for a wine tasting and a cheese platter, or an orchard offering apple picking or hard cider on the farm.  The agritourism movement is gaining more traction every year as more farms are adding on-site attractions, and some are working together in the effort.

Per UF/IFAS, Agritourism marries Florida’s two largest industries, tourism and agriculture, to provide an on farm recreational experience for consumers.  Florida experienced record tourism in 2015, with 105 million visitors spending more than $85 billion, according to VISIT Florida.  The number of Florida farms offering recreational experiences more than doubled from 281 in 2007 to 724 in 2012, according to USDA Census of Agriculture data.

2013 Agritourism Law

A 2013 change in the Florida Statutes reduced the liability for agritourism farms so long as a warning sign is posted indicating participation in agritourism activities involves inherent risks and notifying participants that by choosing to participate they are accepting these risks.  The change does not protect gross negligence, but provides some assurance for farms on the fence about opening their farm to the public.

Included in those changes was language to prevent local authorities from imposing regulations to prevent agricultural operations from engaging in agritourism, however, many questions arose after the ink dried.  Several operations found themselves in difficult circumstances, as local authorities grappled with the new law, which lacked a reference to enforcement of existing local regulations.  The definition of agritourism itself was a point of confusion, especially where the on-farm activities were not clearly related to agriculture.  Rustic on-farm weddings have become a hot trend but were not specifically cited as an agritourism activity.

2016 Improvements

On May 23, 2016, a ceremonial bill signing (House Bill 59) for agritourism took place with Florida’s Governor Scott.  The law will go into effect July 1, 2016.  The event took place at C&W Farms in Lakeland, a lovely four-acre blueberry farm. The bill sponsors included Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk City, Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, and Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland. Polk County was well represented by those in attendance: Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam, Sen. Stargel, Rep. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland, and Sheriff Grady Judd. Also in attendance were Rep. Raburn, and Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Dade City.

This signing of HB 59 solidified agritourism operators’ ability to continue to grow and contribute to families, communities and our state’s economy by creating jobs.  Agritourism efforts must be on a “bona fide agricultural property”.  House Bill 59 allows farmers to participate in agritourism without interference from local governments.

The 2016 edition clarifies 2013 questions with specific language to address the points of contention.  Local governments are prohibited not only from enacting new regulations to limit agritourism but also from enforcing existing regulations.  The concerns of local government were also addressed, however, with the addition of language that allows them power to examine “substantial offsite impacts” of agritourism activities.

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Our Creative Placemaking Experience on a the Remote Barrier Island of Boca Grande, FL (2014 – 2016) – Boca Grande Farmers Market

Boca Grande is a remote barrier island (Gasparilla Island) in Southwest Florida, about an hour south of Sarasota and an hour north of Fort Myers.  In addition to being a gorgeous coastal paradise, and the silver king tarpon capital of the world, it also happens to be a functioning food desert.  We didn’t like that, and we knew residents wanted and needed the unifying community that often springs up around food systems.

In 2014, we brought the island its first, historic, seasonal open-air farmers market complete with Florida Fresh produce, meat, fish, cheese, arts, crafts, music, and wonderful community activities, to name a few.  Life was great!

In 2015, Lee County, FL restricted our operations in our 2nd season to meet a vague definition of “agriculturally related” and a definition that was not, in our humble opinion, equitably applied across county lines.  Our sizeable market was slashed in half and became food only, or “green.”  This experience brought us to try to work with, and sometimes fight, city hall for what we knew was a NECESSARY whole food system addition.  Still, we tried to embrace green and had plans to move forward with encouraging community gardening, edible landscapes, and community supported agriculture.

In 2016, at the start of our 3rd season, the county shared its intention to alter the operating premise and use of county land. This caused us, like many farmers markets before, to have to re-envision and re-imagine food networks and food deliveries.  Our dreams for a food co-op or an area food hub would have to be put on hold.

Instead, we opened a brand new year-round virtual farmers market in addition to any future forward physical market and we established a much needed grocery & goods delivery service for residents and visitors alike.  We will encourage the growth and visibility of specialty craft foods and attempt to bring more exotic, rare, and high-quality gourmet offerings as well as help to create additional food-centric culture on island.

Come see what we’ve been up to  or visit our online shop and let us know how you’d like to get involved.

Greenbelting & Other Requirements

Language to describe an agritourism activity was expanded and specifically includes civic and ceremonial activities. One point that has not changed is that these activities are regarded as agritourism only when conducted on land that is classified as agricultural, i.e. land granted agricultural assessment value with the local property appraiser.

Agritourism provides an opportunity for consumers to become aware of the importance of farms and the role farmers play in their daily lives as the average American is now at least three generations removed from the farm.

  • California remains the nation’s number one agriculture producing state and has some of the richest resource material for agritourism known to man.  One is an interesting guide for reviewing your farm safety operations and related concerns with walkthroughs, checklists, and resources.
  • Northwest Indiana holds claim to the largest agritourism operation, Fair Oaks Farms.
  • Agritourism extends to international borders, here’s what’s happening in Nepal.
  • In Armenia, they’re looking to agritourism as a way to attract foreign tourists.
  • Ohio State University put out a guide for preparing emergency management plans for your agritourism activity.
  • The University of Tennessee published a very interesting guide about viewing your agritourism activity from a visitor’s perspective and considering experience economy.
  • As of 2016, North Carolina is home to more than 700 agritourism farms, making it one of the nation’s top states for agritourism.

Intricate agrarian heritages, including agriculture practiced by Native Americans for centuries and influences from colonist and immigrant settlers, evolved into the practices and sciences of our country’s modern agriculture. They involve cultivating food and fiber, and managing related natural resources.  Today, agricultural events and promotions are a fusion of tourism, travel, food, culture, sustainability groups and much more.

Art and agriculture and art and gardens (or earth art, land art, and yard art) are often found hand-in-hand.  It all comes back to land use; the creative placemaking that helps people form the identities of themselves and others, and form the definition of home and place.  Where we are and who we are remain age-old questions. An excellent article depicting land as canvas was recently shared in Earth Island Journal.  If you’re starting to think about how you might use your land for education, economy, environment, or enrichment – this is an excellent launching pad.

Regardless, agriculture is critical to Florida’s economy. The University of Florida published research that Florida agriculture, natural resources and related industries provide 1,609,139 jobs and $76.5 billion in value added impacts annually. And when it comes to green acres, the State of Florida has nearly 24 million in forests, croplands and ranches – two thirds of Florida’s total land area. (Source: Florida Agritourism Association).

“By treating our farmers market as an incubator for agricultural and artisan-based entrepreneurship, we’ve been able to direct people that are growing into some vacant storefronts downtown, and this has had a multiplying effect …” The market has helped bring more than 20 new businesses downtown,” says Main Street Manager Andy Corbin

If you’re considering adding agritourism to your location, you will want to check your state’s rules and regulations.  Then you’ll want to check with your insurance agent to see what liabilities you have covered.  Before you do all that, you’ll want to check these sobering statistics on the status of farms and farmlands today.  Every five years, the USDA conducts a Census of Agriculture.  The last effort took place in 2012 and reported 3.2 million farmers operating 2.1 million farms on 914.5 million acres of farmland across the United States.

“Once every five years, farmers, ranchers and growers have the unique opportunity to let the world know how U.S. agriculture is changing, what is staying the same, what’s working and what we can do differently,” said Dr. Cynthia Clark, the retiring head of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, which administered the survey.

  • Eighty-seven percent of all U.S. farms are operated by families or individuals.
  • Principal operators were on average 58.3 years old and were predominantly male; second operators were slightly younger and most likely to be female; and third operators were younger still.

When you do finally get hold of a big idea (and there are thousands of them for developing your property), some big named people are going to come a knockin.  Here’s an excellent piece on things you need to think about before your broadcast the status of your farming operation all over the media.  And if you’re going to need help financing through government loans, you’ll want to read this.

If you’d like to see how somebody else approached the merger of artist/farmer in a big-scale way, this article about Wormfarm Institute is maybe one of our country’s best examples of esteemed operations.  Agritourism can also be a cause for societal good.

  • Seattle’s Beacon Food Forest was the first large-scale urban food forest in the country and has become world-renowned.
  • Chicago’s Heartland Alliance (Chicago FarmWorks) is a job training and food pantry farm that grows about 20 crops a year to address hunger and unemployment.
  • In Detroit,  Greening of Detroit is a movement to recapture abandoned lots and buildings that has been developing over several years.
  • Here’s how one couple beat away big oil in the Heartland of America.
  • Or maybe offer educational workshops & classes.  Farmstead Meatsmith did just that in a way that worked with their own schedule.

If you’re still determined, here are 11 simple practices for creating public spaces or creative placemaking to get you rolling.  And if you’re thinking farmers market or food hub,
you’ll want to check  MarketMaker and USDA’s Farmers’ Market Directory.  A new North American agritourism database directory called http://www.ruralbounty.com/ provides FREE listings available to all agritourism operators.

In 2014, Purdue University did a survey about tourists impressions after visiting a livestock farm (a field known as agrimarketing).  The results demonstrated that today’s tourist is savvy, educated, interested, and is apt to ask difficult environmental questions.  You can prepare upfront by reviewing this.

If you’re in a metropolitan area, you may want to visit Urban Farming as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that up to 20 percent of the world’s food supply is grown in cities. Food industry estimates show that U.S. local food sales totaled at least $12 billion in 2014, up from $5 billion in 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Experts anticipate that figure to hit $20 billion by 2019. Earth911 offers an online Urban Farming 101: How to Start an Urban Farm.  Those looking for government resources can find them through the USDA, which offers an Urban Agriculture Toolkit.  If you’re REALLY in a rural area, here’s an example of South Dakota’s Corn Palace to inspire you.  Coastal areas can benefit with programs like Sustainable seafood systems as a part of their agritourism efforts.

Maybe you just love agricultural art.  The arts are providing to be great for business.  Traditional companies are building partnerships with those in creative industries to mutual advantage.  Through these partnerships, families are finding new ways to spotlight various one-of-a-kind cultures.  Fine Art America has a wide array of inspirational samplings which can be used for brainstorming ideas.  Many art museums are also exhibiting agricultural based art and there is tremendous ongoing opportunity for fine art photography and fine art painters.  Here are some highlights:

  • Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art
  • Reynolda House Museum of American Art
  • Oregon State University
  • Santa Paula Art Museum
  • The Shelburne Museum
  • Joseph A. Fiore Art Center

Many landowners are opting to use a low-impact approach of art residencies, art cooperatives, art auctions, or other art incubators and we’ll be adding more of this work soon.  Florida’s Agricultural Museum was established in 1983 by a group of concerned agriculturalists and historians.

We also oversee an online art collective think tank known as Creative Art Consultants International, you’re warmly encouraged to participate.  This gorgeous example is a digital archival inkjet print by Mike Hazard “Shoua Cuts Dahlias, or Sua txav paaj, 2014″. The image was part of an exhibition “Seeds of Change: A Portrait of the Hmong American Farmers Association” at the Minnesota Museum of American Art in downtown St. Paul. Article and Credit here

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Craft distilleries, wineries, orchards, global teas, and micro-brewers are some of the latest emergent trends in agritourism.  The Beer Farm is one successful Canadian upstart.  Food & Wine festivals and specialty shows are sure crowd pleasers.  Golden Coast Mead shares its excellent story of being a breakout brewer.

Maybe you’re thinking organic.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of organic farmers has quadrupled since 1990, reaching 14,540 in 2015.  More on the farm-to-fork, farm-to-school, and other foodie, gastronomic, culinary experiences with the farm will be added shortly in support of eating local and regional whole food systems. Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley (Chadds Ford) is a prime example of food production that’s being used for tourism in farm-to-table.

How about running a CSA or a community garden….. Or floriculture, or aquaculture, or horticulture.  The key is reimagining, revisioning, and repurposing.

Some farms are working towards gleaning projects, working to reduce food waste and improve accessibility and participation – local investment or food banking.  In February 2016, volunteers contributed 86 hours, harvesting 3,196 pounds of produce at Jessica’s Organic Farm for All Faiths Food Bank. It also brought the first-ever residential fruit tree harvest, during which seven volunteers gleaned 142 pounds of tangerines. These donations brought the total number of pounds provided for All Faiths so far this season to 12,378.

Sculpture and the farm can be another low-impact (but more permanent) way to create economy.  More shortly.

Here’s how one Florida family turned their barn into a wedding destination.  And here’s some of the challenges of turning your barn into a nuptials niche.  Along the same theme, specific travel destination locations can be harnessed for the advancement of the farm.  The same holds true for natural events such as full solar eclipses.

Agritourism is a global advancement initiative designed to bridge gaps.  Here’s how the past 30 years have impacted Iberia Spain.  Or take the gorgeous Florence Tuscany villa  available in Italy. Here’s a picture look book of Sierra Valley Farms.  See also these white papers and articles on special niches: Agritourism in Britain and New England; Agritourism in San DiegoSpecial Farming Considerations for Southwest Florida;

Other ideas include:  farm stands or shops, U-pick, farm stays, farm or ranch tours, on-farm classes, fairs, festivals, pumpkin patches, glamping & tree housing, corn mazes, chuck wagon, Christmas tree farms, winery, weddings, orchard dinners, youth camps, barn dances, hunting or fishing programs, guest ranches, csas, flower gardens, and more ideas are here.  In Oregon, they’re tying biking and cycling to agritourism efforts.  One community did a barn quilt art show.  Here’s how one Michigan farmer upped the ante by engaging in international export trade.  And hey, you’re going to need to think about parking.

So, starting a farm is difficult, and succeeding beyond the first few years may be even more so.  Beginning farmers and ranchers nation-wide face unique challenges to achieve their farm goals and aspirations and Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition is a resource we like.  Add to that list for general knowledge and farm/food background the Greenhorns and Food Tank.

In Florida, Florida Organic Growers is organically active and Florida Department of Agriculture is agriculturally informative.  Visit Florida will connect you to Florida’s incredible vacation, tourism & travel industries. Visit Florida Farms is the link to the Florida’s Agritourism Association page.  University of Florida’s IFAS and their extension agents are a world of resource for you.  Agritourism World is a peek into what other people are doing to economize and monetize their farms.  John Baker published a nicely-designed resource toolkit for Florida Agritourism.  More about Florida’s status as a USDA StrikeForce state is hereCSA wannabes will need to take a look at this resource.

Hundreds of helpful sites are available for the young farmer, the woman farmer, and the Veteran farmer. Women who are starting may want to visit “Soil Sisters: A Toolkit for Women Farmers”. Featuring advice and inspiration from over 100 women with successful hands in the soil, Soil Sisters serves up the roadmap for women to bring their farm and food business vision to life.  More help is here:

“The challenge for farmers in moving to agritourism is that the learning curve is steeper than for most businesses,” says Tracey Fredrickson, business enhancement officer for Invest Kelowna. In British Columbia, the Okanagan Valley is home to more than 120 wineries and a sophisticated tourism industry. But for many farmers looking to capitalize on that critical mass, it’s important to be world-class ready.  

If you’re already well on your way to planning, these incredible tools will further help.  Assessing Your Assets; Assessing Your Goals; Adding Value and Personalizing Services; Create a Business Plan; Conducting Farm & Ranch Tours; Safety & Risk Management; Marketing Strategies; Why People Vacation; On Farm Customer Relations; Marketing the Four Ps; Building Marketing & Community Partnerships; Marketing Ideas; Types of Agritourism; Evaluating Your Financial Potential; Resource Assessment; Regional Evaluation Guides; Asking the Right Questions;

Other interesting and related links include:  Florida Wildflower Foundation; Florida’s Festival Calendar; Florida State Fair; Florida Farm Bureau; Florida Farm Finder; Land Watch (FL farms for sale); Agriculture Institute of Florida; Florida Dairy Farmers; Florida Cattlemen’s Association; Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association; Florida Nursery, Growers & Landscape Association; Florida Peanut Producers Association; Florida Strawberry Growers Association; Turfgrass Producers of Florida; Florida Forestry Association; Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association; Florida Wine & Grape Growers Association; Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; Florida Department of Environmental Protection; Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; The State of Florida’s Nature & Heritage Tourism Center;

A thorough white paper on Arts & Humanities in Communities appears here.  One on Promoting Tourism in Rural America appears here.  In one of my favorite articles, Roger King speaks about moving from the agricultural, farm based PUSH strategy to the travel tourism based PULL strategy.

The future for Florida looks very bright.  Starting in 2015 and through 2018, the state’s economy is expected to expand at an average annual rate of 3.2 percent, according to the “Florida & Metro Forecast” by Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness. And retailers should feel optimistic. The recovery in the labor and housing markets and lower gas prices are factors contributing to a projected average 4.7 percent retail growth pace during 2015-2018.  More about the future of the food startup from Forbes is here.

Finally, we STRONGLY oppose theories and technologies that lend to the idea that the future of agriculture is and will be controlled by computers, genetic manipulation, or big data.  In our minds, agriculture is and always has been about people, place, and providence.  Together, we hope to nurture the statewide agritourism conversation.  At Lange, we’re green innovation for sustainability and resiliency.  Stay tuned, much more to come!

lange: art, agriculture, agritourism.  we’re exploring and expanding the intersections of art, agriculture, agritourism, and agrarian systems in creative placemaking.  How can we help you grow? 941/875.5190.

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The Reinterpretation of Rob Vander Zee, Shauna Lee Lange (circa 2007)

 Agritourism Resources

 

 

 

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The Blue Bench, Nocatee, FL (2015).  Original watercolor by Shauna Lee Lange.