10 October 2013 - by Vera Simon-Nobes

Shelburne Farms Event Brings Together Farms, Educators, and Tourism Enterprises

The historic barns, hillsides dotted with cows, and steaming sugar houses of Vermont’s working landscape have been iconic images of the state for many years. Increasingly, visitors want to do more than drive by these pastoral images. They want to roll up their sleeves, milk a cow, dig potatoes, and learn more about the food system with all five senses.

On October 22 and 23, the Farm-Based Education Network and Vermont Farms! Association are collaborating with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, Shelburne Farms, and University of Vermont Extension to offer the Farm-Based Education Forum: Agritourism, Education and Economics on Your Farm. This two-day, skill-building event will support farms that are currently open to the public, or considering this step, as well as educators and agricultural service providers who work with farms, and tourism enterprises that partner with farms in their communities. The forum is geared towards those experienced in agritourism as well as those just starting out. This is the first time farmers, educators, and tourism enterprises will come together alongside representatives from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and Department of Tourism and Marketing

The Farm-Based Education Forum will offer hands-on workshops and field trips throughout the state on October 22. Participants will tour farms that engage the public in various ways in the Champlain Islands as well as Chittenden, Addison, and Rutland counties. Shelburne Farms, a nonprofit education organization, will host a day-long workshop focused on developing educational programs on its 1,400-acre working farm and campus for learning in Shelburne, VT. Also at Shelburne Farms, University of Vermont Extension will provide training for service providers who support farms that offer agritourism and direct marketing.

The evening of October 22 will be capped off with a dinner prepared by the Inn at Shelburne Farms, an internationally recognized seasonal inn and farm-to-table restaurant. The Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing and the Secretary of Agriculture will speak about the importance of agritourism to our state’s economy and working landscape.

October 23 will follow a conference format with workshops, networking, lunch, and more at Shelburne Farms. Attendees can choose between workshops on marketing, social media, and business planning as well as innovative ideas around events, tours, dinners, and other offerings to expand direct sales and partnerships with tourism enterprises.

As interest in farm experiences is surging throughout the country, Vermont is well positioned to reap the benefits. Whether it’s a family seeking a farm fresh festival, a couple looking for a scenic country wedding venue, or school children interested in learning how maple syrup is made, more people are thinking “farm to table” and beyond. Many Vermont farms are already engaging neighbors and visitors from out of state. According to Lisa Chase, Director of the Vermont Tourism Research Center at University of Vermont Extension, “Vermont leads the nation in per capita sales of farm products sold directly to consumers. Just twenty percent of Vermont farms account for those sales and a much smaller percent of farms are open to visitors. The growing demand for authentic farm and food experiences provides tremendous opportunities for farmers, educators, and tourism enterprises working together.”

For more information, visit http://www.farmbasededucation.org/events/forum.

Register by October 11.

Attendees can mix and match the full and half day offerings on October 22 and 23. Registration costs $45 for the October 23 workshops, with additional costs for field trips and dinner. Lodging at the Inn at Shelburne Farms is available for a reduced rate.