Marketing Pleasures of the Farm
by Randy Weckman
Chances are you can recall rather vividly your first roller coaster ride, your first airplane ride, or your first kiss. But when you try to figure out exactly why you remember, you probably are at a loss for an explanation.
That's the thing about pleasure; it's hard to deconstruct. But because it's pleasurable, you probably want to repeat the experience.
Now, what does pleasure have to do with agriculture?
Plenty. Eating has always been a pleasurable experience. But now there's even more pleasure in agriculture, because people are willing to pay princely prices for their own fun-on-the-farm experience.
Long-time dairy farmer Carl
Neale Chaney, after much contemplation
and several years of low milk prices,
began an agritourism operation on
his farm five miles south of Bowling
Instead of milking 100 Jersey
cows as he had for years, Chaney
sold half the herd through an Internet
auction. Then he took a two-week
short course in ice cream making
at Pennsylvania State University.
Now, he not only wholesales milk
from his herd, he also manufactures
and sells ice cream with ambiance
and the experience of watching
very pretty cows being milked. Some
say that Chaney is the poster boy
for value-added dairying in the region.
became an ice cream manufacturer and
retailer quite by accident. I wanted
to add a milk processing venture to our
dairy, but when I visited other small
milk processing plants, the owners also
manufactured and retailed ice cream.
They said that the ice cream part of
their operations was more profitable
and to start there. I did," he said.
Chaney Farm in Bowling Green
tours of its dairy operation
and other attractions.
It wasn't a "build it they will come" thing at all. Chaney
did his homework. Working with extension agents and specialists, he
assembled a business plan that guided his thoughts and helped him
So far, Chaney's Dairy Barn, which is a family operation, is well ahead of schedule--so far ahead that Chaney believes his revenues will be two and a half times that projected by his business plan for the first year.
And, the family's hard work is helping other entrepreneurs in the area: the Dairy Barn retails locally made home decor accessories as well as Kentucky-made cheese, sausage, wrought iron ornaments, and even soap that features the likeness of one of Chaney's long-lashed Jerseys, Topsy.
Chaney said that his initial milk processing venture is on hold for the next year or so while he continues the launch of his ice cream operation.
You Don't Need a Pith Helmet Here
Ralph Spear (left) and son Brent of Boiling Springs Hunting Lodge near Munfordville.
How about a safari for small game in Hart County?
Boiling Springs Hunting Lodge, near Munfordville, is another agritourism destination. The family-owned-and-operated lodge and hunting preserve, now six years old, features nearly 500 acres of land for hunting quail, pheasant, chukar (a partridge), and wild turkey. The preserve features a lodge for overnight and weekend tourists and home cooked food. And you even can rent a trained bird dog--one of 20
Britannys or German Shorthair Pointers--for your hunting pleasure.
And if you don't want to hunt--or it isn't hunting season--you can simply savor the surroundings and partake in hiking or horseback riding. Or, you can enjoy the pastime of sporting clay shoots. It's something like shooting skeet, except, just as with hunting live birds, the shooter doesn't know when or where the clay pigeons will be released.
"Our clientele continues to grow, with the greatest numbers coming from Louisville and Lexington," said Brent Spear, who along with his father Ralph operates the facility.
Brent Spear noted that he had attended a number of Cooperative Extension-sponsored agritourism seminars and found that networking with others in agritourism was immensely helpful in growing the business.
Family Fun on the Farm
Marianne Holzhauer and her children Martina and Marc pick apples at Boyd Orchard in Woodford County.
The Boyd Orchard near Versailles offers more than the standard u-pick strawberries and apples. Husband-and-wife operators Terry and Susie Boyd are in the process of transforming the orchard into a tourist destination. In addition to farm-fresh produce, their establishment offers a farmers' market and special evening hayride tour of the farm, culminating in what they refer to as a buffalo tro, which features beef--not buffalo--marinated and cooked over an open fire. That particular tourist attraction, which they call a Harvest Moon Celebration, is offered twice each year (and by special request) and features storytellers, singers, and a flashlight tour of a corn maze.
A special children's area now being built on the orchard will make the establishment even more family friendly and will include an educational section where children and adults can watch apples being graded. A larger, enclosed area made of straw will allow families to keep small children safe and occupied. The Boyd Orchard also will feature a café, bakery, and gift shop soon.
"Our orchard business is augmented by the tourist trade. We depend on tourism to help bring people to the orchard and to sell our products," Susie Boyd said.
More than Apples
For nearly a century and a quarter, the Haney family has been involved in the orchard business--Appledale Orchards--near Nancy in Pulaski County. Brothers Mark and Don Haney find that agritourism increases the orchards' sale of apples, peaches, pumpkins, vegetables, melons, apple cider, bakery items, jams, jellies, honey, sorghum, and candies.
Brothers Mark (left) and Don Haney of Appledale Orchards.
"Throughout the generations, our family has found that extension programs have helped us improve yields and quality of our products. Now that we are increasing our tourism trade, Extension is helping us retail our products through agritourism," Mark Haney said.
Haney noted that while agritourism is a money-maker in its own right, it also has a spin-off effect of enticing traffic through the family's establishment.
"If we can get them to the farm, our patrons generally buy some produce, or honey, or other things. And once they have a good experience, they come back," he said.
Agritourism in Kentucky
Tourism contributes more than $9 billion each year to Kentucky's economy. And even though that figure seems pretty impressive, tourism's contribution could be substantially higher, especially with the addition of agritourism operations such as those highlighted here.
Kentucky's location gives it a real advantage for tourism. Millions of people live within a day's drive of the state. In addition, several interstate highways make travel to Kentucky easy. Finally, Kentucky's esteemable agricultural history can be a real asset for tourism expansion.
The University of Kentucky's Cooperative Extension Service is helping those in the agritourism industry. A core group of faculty and agents work with the industry's organization and promotion. Another group of faculty stand ready to help fulfill specific needs for individual enterprises, from helping put together a business plan to providing advice on zoning or the best ways to market a new enterprise.
During the last year, Extension's agritourism promotion activities included several conferences, workshops, and seminars throughout the state and what were billed as Pride of Kentucky showcases--events that introduced consumers to various agritourism destinations. Marketing workshops have helped agritourism operators learn who their consumers are and how to reach them efficiently. In addition, quick response teams made up of extension agents and specialists have developed activities, products, and enterprises that will enhance tourism and Kentucky's economy.