RUTLAND – Whether offering a farm stay experience, farm stand, pick-your-own operation or barn tours for groups, many Vermont farms are turning to agritourism, education and direct sales to supplement their farm income and increase profits.
On April 7-8, farmers, agricultural service providers, educators and others interested in exploring agritourism opportunities came to Rutland for a two-day conference: “Welcoming Customers On Your Farm.” The conference featured farm tours around the Rutland Region, a farm-to-table dinner, and 20 workshops.
The farm tours introduced participants to four farms in the Rutland region: Hathaway Farm in Rutland Town, Wellsmere Farm in Wells, Larson Farm in Wells, and Someday Farm in Dorset. These working farms hosted the visitors for tours, food classes, summer camps, farm stands, on-farm retail and direct sales. The tour also stopped at Green Mountain College in Poultney for a briefing on its Farm & Food Project. The day concluded will a farm-to-table dinner with locally-sourced food and a networking event at the Vermont Farmers Food Center in Rutland.
On the second day, at the Paramount Theatre, keynote speaker Meg Southerland, a third generation farmer at Gardenworks Farm in Salem, New York, gave a talk about agritourism on a century-old family farm. Gardenworks has a farm stand and hosts workshops, barn rentals for special events, dinner theater and other activities.
Also on the second day, at the Community College of Vermont, workshops were offered on all aspects of opening up a farm to the public – such as assessing whether agritgourism is the right decision for a farm, marketing tips, safety and liability issues, and other challenges of working with visitors.