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Agri-Tourism Conference

State panelists present ways
to promote farms to tourists

• Editor's Note: Due to a production error, this story did not run in the March 2004 issue of RoundAbout. It will appear in the April 2004 issue.

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

NORTH VERNON, Ind. (March 2004) – Nearly 60 individuals from around the area gathered Feb. 26 at the Jennings County Public Library in North Vernon for the second of five agri-tourism conferences planned by the education-outreach committee of the Indiana Agri-Tourism Working Group.

Agri-tourism seminar

Photo by Ruth Wright

Panelists discuss Agri-tourism.

The group, comprised of individuals from around the state, was formed last April to help develop and promote to the travel market Indiana’s agricultural resources as unique selling propositions of rural tourism.
Rural tourism includes resorts, offsite farmers’ markets, non-profit agricultural tours and other activities that draw people to rural areas. In Indiana, that describes the majority of the state, since 67 of its 92 counties are considered rural, according to state tourism representative Greg Bedan.
A subset of rural tourism, agri-tourism is “a commercial enterprise at a working farm, ranch, or agricultural plant conducted for the enjoyment of visitors that generates supplemental income for the owner.”
At the North Vernon conference, information was provided to attendees interested in learning more about how they could apply agri-tourism to their business. Susan Walters of the Jennings County Visitors Center opened the conference by introducing several panelists from the county who came to share with those present their agri-tourism endeavors.
Denise Dailey of Walton Creek Farm in Deputy spoke about her experience growing specialty greens, which are distributed in 47 states. “The chefs across the nation think we’re a great big operation. We’re not,” Dailey said. Instead, her’s is a small family owned and operated business, she said.
Albert and Diane Armand of Westport spoke about their family farm, which began 20 years ago and has grown into an agri-tourism venture featuring a popular area you-pick pumpkin patch. “People can actually drive their cars out in the field, weather permitting,” Albert Armand said.
Elizabethtown’s Dana Harp, a graduate of Purdue’s Landscape Design school, spoke about her landscaping company, Moon Dance Gardens, which she started in 1992. “I’m in it for the artistic part,” said Harp.
Russell Beiersdorfer spoke about his orchard, which was started by his father. Also a graduate of Purdue with a horticulture degree, Beiersdorfer grows peaches, apples, pears, cherries and plums.
Panelists fielded questions from attendees, after which the conference broke into sessions that covered topics including business planning, liability and risk management, marketing, partnering, and funding. Presenting information were experts from the Indiana Tourism Division, the Office of the Commissioner of Agriculture, Purdue University, the Small Business Development Center in Madison, Indiana Farmers’ Mutual Insurance, the Decatur County Chamber of Commerce and the A.D.A.
Helping organize the conference was Hoosier Heartland RC&D, a conservation and economic development organization based in Indianapolis.
Three more agri-tourism conferences are scheduled this month: March 2 in Winamac at the Pulaski County Highway Garage; March 4 in Kendallville at the Cerutis Conference Center; and March 9 in Indianapolis at the Center for Agricultural Science and Heritage.
The first conference, held in Petersburg on Feb. 23, drew a crowd of about 51. Organizers said they are pleased with the positive response to the initiative. “We thought that if we had 20 (people attend) that would be a big success,” said Kathy Altman, director of value-added business development and marketing for the OCA.

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