Have you ever taken your children to the local pumpkin patch to choose the perfect pumpkin for their jack-o’-lantern? Or taken the grandkids to a petting zoo? How about the family outing to the …
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Have you ever taken your children to the local pumpkin patch to choose the perfect pumpkin for their jack-o’-lantern? Or taken the grandkids to a petting zoo? How about the family outing to the lavender festival, or your local farmers market? If so, you have been a consumer in the rapidly growing industry of agritourism.
“Agritourism covers a wide variety of recreational, educational and other leisure activities and services, provided by farmers and ranchers and experienced by consumers who value the activity or service they receive and seek it out,” is how the Colorado Department of Agriculture defines activities, events and services that many residents in Elbert County already provide, or hope to provide in the future.
Agritourism is a fast-growing trend globally, and Diane Cribley, chairperson and founding member of the Elbert County Agriculture Alliance, wants to help people in Elbert County take advantage of the profitable trend, while maintaining the rural lifestyle county residents are so protective of.
“One of the biggest complaints you hear about development out here is that it’s taking away from our rural lifestyle,” said Cribley. “Agritourism is a way to enhance it, while bringing business into the county and allowing people to experience the rural lifestyle we all enjoy.”
The ECAA recently applied for, and was awarded the Colorado Rural Academy for Tourism (CRAFT) workshop, which is a one-day program designed for a community that wishes to advance tourism in their area, awarded through the Colorado Tourism Office. The workshop will be held April 18 at the Pines and Plains Library branch in Elizabeth, and will allow attendees the chance to work together and come up with a plan for advancing agritourism in Elbert County.
“There are a lot of people in our community who could benefit from agritourism,” said Cribley. “At the workshop, together we will talk about the business aspect of starting or running a business, marketing and safety issues.”
Also on hand will be a community development representative from Elbert County, a county commissioner and a representative from the Small Business Development Center, who can help develop business plans and discuss zoning and regulation issues.
“There’s so many opportunities out here, especially for people to supplement their incomes through agritourism, both to bring people into the county to experience our rural lifestyle, and to support and educate new people who move to the county,” said Cribley. “It could be something like classes on how to milk goats, or how to train an alpaca, or organic gardening.”
Cribley said she had spoken to county commissioners and officials, and they have been supportive of her efforts to bring agritourism to the county.
The state of Colorado has been supportive of agritourism as well, including the signing of HB 14-1280 by Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2014, which offered new protection for the industry by limiting liability for farmers and ranchers involved in activities related to agricultural recreation activities.
The workshop is open to anyone interested in agritourism, including those in adjacent counties, although Cribley hopes those who attend will take an interest in the industry within Elbert County on a continuing level.
“The goal is to create an agritourism community, with people who are willing to take part in monthly meetings and help shape the future of agritourism in Elbert County,” said Cribley. “We hope to come away from the workshop with a two-year plan for implementation and support.”
Registration is required to attend the workshop, as space is limited. For more information about the workshop, or agritourism in Elbert County, contact Cribley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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