Agritourism development and global sustainability

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Agritourism activities can provide the supplemental income necessary to allow for the preservation of small and mid-scale farms, ranches, and rural communities. It can be promoted as an outlet for local residents and tourists to experience direct contact and interaction with agriculture and natural resources. Increasing public interaction with local farms and ranches can promote an understanding and appreciation for the working landscapes that help maintain or enhance natural resources.  

Long-term agritourism sustainability depends on preserving the quality of the nature-based environment that includes productive agriculture. The NRCS outlines six essential elements of agritourism sustainability – authenticity, fun, values, relationships, learning, and involvement. Many agritourism operators express a desire to educate visitors or as a tool for community outreach as some of the key motivating factors in implementing and managing their tourist-focused activities.  The vast majority of the US population is not directly engaged in agriculture; agritourism efforts provide an opportunity for these individuals to engage with their local food system. These types of interactions may empower individuals to make more sustainable food and lifestyle choices and can increase the extent of rural advocacy among city dwellers.

Permitting issues, environmental health regulations, and liability or insurance concerns were the three most prominent factors limiting the implementation of agritourism. The University of California Agricultural Issues Center found that the the permitting system was overwhelmingly viewed by farm operators as misleading, time-consuming, or costly (AIC Issues brief). In order to obtain clearances, permits, and licenses, operators must follow a planning and permitting process that addresses land-use development, environmental health and safety, licenses and taxes, and direct marketing. Rules and regulations for agritourism operations vary by county, increasing the potential for miscommunication or misunderstandings within the system. To address these concerns, agritourism stakeholders are engaging in a variety of research initiatives and programs aimed at promoting the development of sustainable agritourism.


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