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
by Ruth Wright
The group, comprised of individuals from around the state, was formed
last April to help develop and promote to the travel market Indianas
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 were a great big operation. Were
not, Dailey said. Instead, hers 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.
Elizabethtowns Dana Harp, a graduate of Purdues Landscape
Design school, spoke about her landscaping company, Moon Dance Gardens,
which she started in 1992. Im in it for the artistic part,
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.