SEBRING, FL (Sept. 19, 2022) – The area’s first Agritourism Forum took place Sept. 13-14 at the Highlands County Extension Office in Sebring with more than 30 registrants from all over Florida, including Okaloosa, DeSoto, Hardee, St, Lucie, Highlands and Martin counties. The program was designed for anyone interested in starting or expanding an agritourism business.
The Forum began on Sept. 13 with a Farm Tour and stops at Secret Gardens Winery, Sugar Sand Distillery, and The PARC. A Farm-to-Table Dinner, provided by Culina at the PARC, was available for purchase at the last stop.
The Forum continued Sept. 14 with speakers and panelists discussing a variety of agritourism topics including trends and opportunities for Florida agritourism, how to market your operation, agritourism rules and liability, marketing, how to work with extension, business planning, agritourism perceptions, and funding sources to start or expand your agritourism business.
“This was the result of Visit Sebring’s outreach to our local agritourism partners during our 2021 stakeholder meetings,” said Casey Hartt, Visit Sebring’s Lead Marketing Consultant. “This educational forum is one thing they asked for during those meetings, so we worked in collaboration with other organizations to make it happen.”
Agritourism is a way to merge Florida’s two largest industries: tourism and agriculture. In post-event surveys, registrants noted that they attended for education and information on how to start or expand their agritourism business, to learn what resources are available, to spur agritourism in their community, and for the opportunity to network with other agritourism operators.
“With so much of Florida’s ag land being developed, agritourism is a way for bona fide ag operators to add an additional revenue stream to their business while keeping the land in agriculture,” Hartt said. “Tourists and locals are intrigued with farming and ranching, and they will pay for these educational and informative experiences.”
The Forum was co-hosted by Visit Sebring/Highlands County Tourist Development Council (TDC), Florida Agritourism Association, Highlands County Extension/IFAS, Highlands County Farm Bureau, and the Greater Sebring Chamber of Commerce. –