Today we’re covering everything about agritourism! ~ a new government-supported agritourism program in California, comprehensive practical resources to start and manage an agritourism operation, and an interview with the Land Manager of HipCamp, a booking platform that connects paying campers with unique places to camp (think AirBnB for camping).
Agritourism Intensive Workshops
This Fall the UC Small Farm Program received a USDA grant to support the California agritourism community through a series of educational workshops, webinars and resources. This new program is all thanks to the collaboration of UC Cooperative Extension, local community organizations, tourism professionals, and experienced agritourism operators.
Over the next few months, three different regions of California will each host a three-part series of Agritourism Intensive workshops:
- Dates: Tuesdays, Dec 1, 2015, Jan 12 & Feb 23, 2016
- Times: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. each session (lunch provided)
- Location: Mineral Building, Plumas County Fairgrounds, Quincy, CA 95971
- Cost: $50 for 3-session course (only $20 for additional participants from same family or business)
- Dates: Wednesdays, January 6, February 10 and March 16, 2016
- Times: 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. each session (lunch provided)
- Location: The McConnell Foundation Lema Ranch, 800 Shasta View Drive, Redding, CA 96003
- Cost: $50 for 3-session course (only $25 for additional participants from same family or business)
- Dates: Thursdays, Dec 10, 2015, Jan 21 & Feb 11, 2016
- Times: 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. each session (lunch provided)
- Location: Harvest Hall, Stanislaus Co. Ag. Center, 3800 Cornucopia Way, Modesto, CA 95358
- Cost: $50 for 3-session course
If you miss(ed) any of the three sessions in a region, you can attend one of the other regional sessions instead, but note that the classes are regionally targeted with local agritourism operators, county planners and tourism people. But, as UC coordinator Penny Leff says, “the messages and the energy are pretty universal.”
To complement the Agritourism Intensive workshops, or if if you are unable to attend the workshops, make sure to check out the curated resources in the FarmsReach Marketing & Sales: Agritourism Toolkit.
There you can find a short and sweet compilation of practical guides and references for planning and managing an agritourism program, as well as links to the hand-outs from the Agritourism Intensive workshop series.
Q&A with the Land Manager of HipCamp
HipCamp is somewhat like AirBnB for camping. As their site says, their “overall mission is to get more people outside and, more specifically, to inspire the next generation of people who are passionate about exploring AND protecting our lands.” Through their easy platform, people can “search, discover and book ranches, farms, vineyards, nature preserves & public sites for camping across the U.S.”
Here we talked with Jacqueline Tanzella about their cool new service and how farmers can benefit:
FarmsReach: What is Hipcamp, and what is the Land Share program all about?
Jacqueline Tanzella: Hipcamp is the most comprehensive website for finding a place to camp in the U.S. From state parks to national forests to private ranches, the possibilities are endless, and Hipcamp will help you discover those unique campsites, treehouses and pieces of land you’ve yet to see.
The Land Share program was launched in July 2015 and was designed to help private landowners earn money while providing access to campers looking to connect with land and nature on previously inaccessible land. A farmer, rancher or private landowner can list their land and easily make money by hosting campers as many or a few times a month as they’d like.
FR: Why did you see a need for Land Share?
JT: We know many farmers and landowners are looking to diversify their revenue as crop production is uncertain in the face of floods and droughts. The Land Share program empowers farmers, ranchers and landowners to earn more without a major impact to their land or large time commitment.
For the casual camper who would like to get outside this weekend or next, it can be near impossible finding a campsite as many state and national parks book up seven months in advance. Landsharing provides the camper with more opportunities to get outside, connect with nature and learn about their local economy and food sources.
FR: That sounds great for both campers and farmers. Have landowners been receptive to opening their land for camping?
JT: They absolutely are! Lots of our landowners love the idea of connecting with new people from different generations and backgrounds. They enjoy offering some hospitality and educating more people on sustainable farming practices and expounding the health benefits of the produce they grow.
We also have landowners who are more hands-off and never even see their campers. Instead they provide a guestbook, clearly mark off camping areas and no access areas. It’s really up to the landowner how much or how little interaction they want to have with campers.
FR: What kind of land gets booked most frequently? How do farmers know if their land is good for camping?
JT: Our campers are looking for everything from primitive tent campsites to domes to tipis to cottages. Most are just looking for a small, flat piece of land where they can pitch a tent. If it’s in the great outdoors, provides access to nature, and offers a unique experience a camper couldn’t get at a state park then Hipcampers will love it!
As part of our complimentary consultation services, we provide landowners with campsite layout by either coming out to visiting the land or by taking a look at Google Earth images or photos to determine the best camp set-up. We can also provide land and equipment improvement assistance.
All a farmer needs to do it let us know, and we’ll figure out a way to help!
FR: Do you have some examples of farmers that are listed on Hipcamp?
JT: We sure do! We’ve got dozens of farmers that list their land across the country from California to Texas to Wisconsin to Vermont. Here are a few of our most popular:
- Oz Farm, California
- Soul Food Farm, California
- Sand Creek Farm, Texas
- Buttermilk Falls Farm, Wisconsin
- Four Springs Farm, Vermont
We’ve even helped some of our farmers by gathering volunteers to help with their harvests. This fall, we helped harvest 6,000 lbs of olives for Soul Food Farm to press into olive oil. Not only are the people in our community interested in camping outside, but they’re interested in learning about farming and not afraid to get their hands dirty!
JT: Many of our landowners make hundreds, sometimes over a thousand dollars per month! That’s real money and revenue from Hipcamp that can be used for anything! Most of our landowners put the money toward paying property taxes, making barn repairs, buying new farm equipment, hiring, marketing, whatever will continue to drive their business forward.
FR: HipCamp sounds like a nice marketing tool for farms as well. Have you seen evidence of that?
JT: Absolutely! We market all our properties via email and social media to our growing list of 400,000 campers across the country. We also provide professional photography so that a listing truly represents the beauty and experience of being on that land.
Additionally, we know our campers often leave a stay having purchased pounds of produce from that farm or having signed up for the farm’s CSA box. It’s a great way for farmers to find new customers who will continue to spread the word about the farm for a long time after their stay.
FR: Are there any costs charged to the farm, or any other requirements to list a farm in HipCamp?
JT: Nope! It’s free to list on Hipcamp. We do take a small commission on bookings, and the fee is based on insurance needs and number of active sites.
We at Hipcamp and our campers adhere to the Leave No Trace principles, so the only requirement for hosting campers is access to a toilet. This could be a compostable toilet, outhouse, port-a-potty or providing access to a flush toilet.
We can help you determine what kind is best for your land and can even help with assistance in purchasing or building that toilet.
FR: What kind of insurance or property damage protection do you provide?
JT: We just launched our two-part Protection Plan to provide farmers and landowners with the peace of mind that we will support them no matter what.
Many landowners have opted to use their own commercial insurance policies, but in case you don’t have this kind of insurance, you could qualify to be covered under the Hipcamp Insurance Policy, which provides general liability insurance for up to $1 million to a landowner in the rare event a camper injures themselves on a landowner’s property. Check out this page to see if you qualify.
Additionally, we have created a Property Protection Plan that provides reimbursement for up to $10,000 in damages in the rare event a camper damages your property during their stay.
FR: How would interested farmers get started?
For more posts related to Marketing & Sales, check out our earlier series:
- Part 1: Comparing Your Sales Channels
- Part 2: Pricing Your Products & Tracking Sales
- Part 3: Safe, Inexpensive & Sustainable Packing Tips
- Part 4: Mobile POS Payment Options for Your Customers
- Part 5: Tips to Improve Your Brand and Market Value
- Part 6: New Farmers Market Resources Added to Toolkits!
- Part 7: Tips for Creating an Inviting & Usable Website
If you have questions or words of wisdom about setting up or running agritourism programs, visit FarmsReach Conversations and post a question or comment!
If you have other great resources to share, get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.