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UMaine Extension Starting Agritourism Initiative

Farm-based tourism, known as agritourism, can provide farmers with significant supplemental income, especially for smaller operations. University of Cooperative Extension, which recognizes the economic impact agritourism can have on individual farmers, is devoting a new program area focusing on educating, promoting, and supporting agritourism opportunities throughout Maine’s farming community.

UMaine Extension’s Marc Edwards, a tourism and economic development professional, will present the program, “An Introduction to Growing Tourism on the Farm,” in two locations this month. Edwards will be at UMaine Extension’s Androscoggin/Sagadahoc counties offices, located at 24 Main St. in Lisbon Falls, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 8. The second session will be at UMaine Extension’s Franklin County office at 138 Pleasant Street, Suite 1, in Farmington from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 15.

The sessions are open to the public and cost $25 for materials.

The program is intended for new and existing farmers currently not engaging in agritourism activities, but who may be considering developing agritourism on their farms. It will bring awareness of agritourism opportunities and the potential for farmers to benefit from developing agritourism on their farms.

After attending this program, participants will have a general understanding of agritourism, and will be able to identify at least one potential agritourism activity on their farm. Participants will also be able to identify the first three basic steps towards developing agritourism on their farm.

What defines agritourism, according to Edwards, can range from roadside stands and pick-your-own operations to farmers markets and on-farm retail stores.

“It really depends on who you ask,” he says. “There are many definitions out there.”

A 2006 UMaine report estimated Maine farms that incorporate agritourism activities generated total farm sales of $65.6 million. Agritourism activities accounted for about 43 percent ($28.3 million) of the total sales on those farms. These sales supported 1,762 full- and part-time jobs, or 39 percent of all hired workers on agritourism farms.

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