Who We Are
The NC-ANA hosts the NC Agritourism Conference annually, generally held in February of each year that brings farmers together, not only from across the state, but from across the country as well. During that time period we not only have interactive farm tours that visit Agritourism Farms and other points of interest, but we also host a large educational conference and trade show that appeal to not only beginners in the Agritourism world but the experienced and seasoned farmers as well. Our conferences bring vendors and exhibitors that are specific to the industry and that our Agritourism farmers want to talk, communicate and network with.
2021 Board of Directors
Apple Hill Farm, Watauga County
Vice President, Wake County
Randleigh Dairy Heritage Museum
Treasurer, Sampson County
Northeast District Directors
North Central District Directors
Southeast District Directors
South Central District Directors
Erin Porter Conser
West District Directors
Danielle Stepp McCall
Mike and I were some of the first members several years ago. There were only a few members then. We are amazed how the association has grown and the fantastic resource it has become. Now the next generation of our family is active in the NC ANA.
– Rita Long Stepp, Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard (Hendersonville, NC)
Letter From The Executive Board
Agribusiness is North Carolina’s top industry at 92.7 billion dollars, employing 772,000 people within our state. With 46,418 farms in our state, agriculture is complex with multiple ways for farms to generate income. Through the years, farms have had to diversify their revenue streams through new crops, use of new technology and finding new markets for their products. For more and more farm families, diversification has also meant welcoming the public to their farms. This is called Agritourism and its success has created a crucial revenue stream for farm families desperately trying to remain profitable and hold on to the family farm. The North Carolina statute defines agritourism as education, recreation and entertainment on a working farm.
Welcoming visitors is a valuable piece of a farm’s resiliency plan. Data from the US Census of Agriculture shows farm agritourism revenue more than tripled between 2002 and 2017. Adjusted for inflation, agritourism revenue grew from $704 million in 2012 to almost $950 million in 2017. The 2017 data excluded wineries, although they were included in the 2002, 2007, and 2012 data, which suggests agritourism revenue growth may have been even greater during that period.
In 2018 the NC Agritourism Networking Association conducted a survey of its membership. The total number of visitors from the 63 farms that completed the survey was 669,534. This fact equates to a 105% increase or a little more than double the total number of visitors reported in 2017. Our farm membership numbers also have more than doubled in the previous two years. All these positive numbers should be celebrated and in fact, we have. The numbers show an incredible trend of engagement based agricultural tourism that farmers are embracing and gravitating to.
Given the challenges of COVID-19, the good news is that consumers are seeking local food sources now more than ever. Agribusinesses with on-farm markets or who participate in farmers markets have made changes to offer preorders, drive through markets or curbside pick-up. Farms are employing additional measures to protect the health of their consumers, employees, and families to keep the doors open to generate income.
Now for the bad news and this news is quite devastating. Farms that have diversified into agritourism offering springtime activities have taken a huge revenue hit due to cancellations of tours and tastings, on-farm lodging,
Easter activities, school field trips, festivals, workshops and events such as weddings, graduation, and other similar celebrations. Farms that welcome the public look toward what also may be a temporary shift in consumer needs and expectations for summer and fall activities such as camps, field trips, family fun activities and haunted attractions due to the impacts
of COVID-19. Revenue losses have been dramatic and for some farm families beyond recoverable for operations to continue. This reality will only get worse for this segment of agriculture unless financial support and help is provided.
Many agritourism farming operations fall outside of the standard commodity-based production farms. USDA’s typical way to flow monies for disaster payments is through the Farm Service Agency with a focus on production losses. Hosting people on farms is the central critical component to agritourism. What the agritourism industry is experiencing is a complete shut-down of revenue due to the shuttering of tourism brought on by the shelter in place and social distancing mandates. The economic impacts are extreme, and your help is needed now.
On behalf of the membership of the NC Agritourism Networking Association, your support and acknowledgment of this industry serving on the front lines of public education about agriculture is our first ask. We are passionate about new and inventive ways to engage our public. What we know is that there is a lack of education about the realities of farming with the general public. We accept and execute the mandate to educate people where and how their food, fiber, and forestry grows on our farms.
Secondly our other request is to please fight for maximum relief funding for our business sector of agriculture entrepreneurs. Respectfully we ask you to advocate for the robust revenue opportunities that allow farms offering agritourism activities to remain in business and a vital part of our state’s top industry. We are farmers. We are agriculture. We need your help. We are the face of agriculture.
President, NC Agritourism Networking Association
Vice President, NC Agritourism Networking Association
Secretary, NC Agritourism Networking Association
Treasurer, NC Agritourism Networking Association