very large group posing for photo in two-story hotel lobby
The Agritourism Research and Extension Collaborative has generated many outcomes, including the 2022 International Workshop on Agritourism (IWA), which engaged more than 500 in-person and virtual attendees. This group photo was taken at the in-person event. Credit: Bear Cieri, courtesy of Hello Burlington

Agritourism Research and Extension Collaborative honored with USDA NIFA National Partnership Award

Congratulations to members of the Agritourism Research and Extension Collaborative, who were recognized with a 2023 USDA NIFA Partnership Award for their multi-state work advancing agritourism! The award honors the collective efforts of a network of individuals that spans more than a dozen states at 11 Land-Grant Universities, and two community partner organizations who collaborated on several projects to advance agritourism nationally.  

Their collaboration resulted in the development and deployment of the first national survey of agritourism operators. Led by Lisa Chase at the University of Vermont, the online survey was disseminated in collaboration with colleagues from the National Extension Tourism Network between November 2019 and February 2020, and received responses from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. It provided detailed data on producer motivations and challenges, farm profitability, firmographics, and demographics, resulting in important implications for policy and outreach related to agritourism.

The survey and a related effort — the International Workshop on Agritourism held in Vermont in 2022 — inspired several subsequent collaborations, including:

  • a USDA NIFA AFRI grant to create an effective support system for small and medium-sized farm operators to succeed in agritourism
  • three USDA NIFA Extension Risk Management Education projects focused on agritourism 
  • new outreach and educational tools, including an agritourism networking map, hosted by the National Extension Tourism Network’s Agritourism Working Group.
  • creation of an agritourism business planning module with the AgPlan platform hosted by the Center for Farm Financial Management at the University of Minnesota and related training materials 
  • a project with the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC) platform to build an agritourism resource portal that collects Extension education materials in one central hub.  

“Before collaborating on the survey, members of our team were often siloed within their own states as one of the few researchers or extension professionals working on agritourism at their institutions,” said Chase. “We are now integrated into regional, national and international networks working to improve farm viability for agritourism operators and expand opportunities for economic development and quality of life improvements, while also providing agricultural education for consumers.”

The award was formally presented on May 16 at the USDA NIFA virtual awards ceremony, where Jason Entsminger (University of Maine) and Claudia Schmidt (Penn State and NERCRD) accepted the award on behalf of the larger team. The ceremony was attended by more than 250 people, including the USDA NIFA Director and Assistant Director and other top-ranking officials within NIFA leadership.

Team members who share in the recognition include:

  • Lisa Chase, University of Vermont
  • Carla Barbieri, North Carolina State University
  • Rachael Callahan, University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program
  • David Conner, University of Vermont
  • Lori Dickes, Clemson University
  • Jason Entsminger, University of Maine
  • Kelli Hepler, American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association
  • Chadley Hollas, Cultivating Tourism
  • Dave Lamie, Clemson University
  • Jada Lindblom, University of New Hampshire Extension
  • Xinyi Qian, University of Minnesota Tourism Center
  • Claudia Schmidt, Penn State Extension and Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development
  • Doolarie Singh-Knights, West Virginia University Extension
  • Mary Stewart, Oregon State University Extension
  • Stacy Tomas, Oklahoma State University
  • Claire Whitehouse, University of Vermont

The NIFA Partnership Award recognizes outstanding contributions in support of the NIFA mission and USDA Strategic Goals that provide an outcome that positively impacts agriculture, the environment, communities, or people. The Agritourism Research and Extension Collaborative was selected to receive the 2023 “Multistate Effort” category for this award. 

As Entsminger stated during his remarks at the ceremony, “Efforts within the Collaborative have reached across the USDA mission, involving not only USDA NIFA AFRI support, but connecting with other NIFA-led and sponsored programs and other USDA agencies. This work is continuing because of partnerships formed within and through the Collaborative!”