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Marketing California's Agritourism Businesses

People love it or hate it...and the agritourist's word is worth its weight in gold.

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Agricultural Tourism

Marketing the agritourism business is a little different than retail businesses. Retailers depend on repeat business. Agritourism operators depend on word of mouth between satisfied visitors who visit very rarely (if their visit is even repeated)...but who can tell LOTS of other people to come, see, enjoy and experience the adventure.

On-farm or ranch activities are diverse across California. Options include

  • bed and breakfasts
  • on-farm camping
  • farm vacation
  • ranch vacation
  • youth exchange
  • Elderhoste
  • wagon rides
  • horseback rides
  • U-pick fruit and vegetables
  • on-farm processed product purchases
  • on-farm agricultural craft and product purchases
  • farm/ranch tours
  • school tours
  • garden tours
  • winery tours
  • technical agricultural tours
  • historical exhibits
  • petting zoos
  • exotic animal farms

Potential agritourist visitors read the following types of media (in order of favorites:

  • Newspapers
  • Travel magazines
  • Cuisine magazines
  • Environmental magazines
  • Internet

Tell Your Story...So That It's Repeatable!

But by far, visitors learn of agritourism sites mostly from FRIENDS and Word of Mouth (79%)! Additional sources include newspaper and magaizine articles, business signs, the Internet, fliers, agritourism map, tourism bureau and magazine ads.

The data on periodical readership and Internet use suggest venues through which agritourism operators might expect to reach the highest numbers of potential visitors.

Editorial Coverage is Better than Paid

Although newspaper and magazine articles (which do not typically result in costs to the operator) reached 38 percent and 28 percent of visitors, respectively, paid advertising in similar outlets was considerably less effective, reaching only 13 and 8 percent.

Word and Deed Make up the Successful Agribusiness

Since word-of-mouth advertising has consistently been noted as an effective publicity technique for agritourism sites, operators should keep in mind that a visitor is likely to tell her/his friends about a positive (or negative) experience. Therefore, in addition to any formal advertising, attention paid to the customer service aspect of an agritourism operation is likely to enhance the reputation of the site and maintain a flow of visitors. After all, agritourism and on-farm nature tourism combine elements of farming and ranching with the service sector. Agritourism operators are thus likely to be most successful when they are able to skillfully manage both.

SOURCE: >UC Small Farm Center

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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