Grant dollars and local partnerships are providing the opportunity for Johnston County farmers to train in agritourism.
The partners in the training program are the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, Johnston Community College and the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service. The grant dollars come from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.
Made up of three seminars, the program aims to provide the latest information about agritourism to Johnston farmers, vinters, brewers and distillers.
The first seminar, held in March, explored the history of agritourism in Johnston County and the resources available in the Tourism Extension office at N.C. State University. The second seminar, scheduled for April 28, will focus on farm-to-table strategies and successes. Among the speakers will be Neha M. Shah, director of travel and tourism for the Pittsboro-Siler City Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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Johnston County has previously offered agritourism workshops, with the goal of helping farmers seeking ways to use their land and equipment to serve tourists. Because of those workshops, many held 10 years ago, agritourism has taken root here, with many family farms embracing the industry.
Current trends in agritourism show increasing interest in beer and wine. Johnston County has four wineries, two breweries and one distillery where visitors can learn about local ingredients that go into the beverages they get to enjoy in the tasting rooms.
Caroline Hines is among the owners of Hines Farm outside of Micro. The family-owned farm grows tobacco mostly and hasn’t ventured into agritourism. Among the most important aspects of agritourism are branding and marketing, Hines said, but those can also be the most baffling to farmers, she added.
“Agritourism takes people visiting your operation and that takes branding your farm as a place people want to go,” Hines said. “With most conventional farms you have a product and you sell it, and that’s it. You don’t have to market your crops.”
The agritourism series will conclude Sept. 22 with a seminar on agritourism trails and marketing. A tour of successful agritoursim ventures in Johnston County will follow Oct. 27. To register, call Rosa Andrews at 919-209-2594 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.