Webinar series brings agritourism education

Tourism Extension specialists at N.C. State University attracted nearly 250 participants to a spring webinar series on agritourism. Dr. Samantha Rozier Rich and Dr. Stacy Tomas, along with Sue Colucci (area specialized horticulture Extension agent) and colleagues from Rutgers University, hosted the five-part series, with topics ranging from “Is agritourism right for your farm?” to “Social Media 101.”

Rich said the webinar series grew out of her efforts to create an eXtension community of practice on agritourism. In the process, she met Stephen Komar of Rutgers, and they began discussing possibilities for agritourism education.

Agritourism refers to enterprises that bring consumers to farms or other rural settings for education, recreation and entertainment. They can include experiences like on-farm shops, pick-your-own operations, corn mazes or special dinners.

The webinars were each offered twice on Tuesdays in March and April, at noon and at 7 p.m. Throughout the series, 245 participants were involved, though some of those were repeats. Though the instructors were from North Carolina and New Jersey, webinar participants came from approximately 13 different states.

“We are thrilled the webinars were such a success. While nothing can replace face-to-face workshops, the webinars provided an excellent alternative for sharing pertinent information in a time where travel is limited for both Extension professionals and others,” Rich said. “The online environment provided the opportunity for participants from various professions, interests, and geographic locations to come together and learn about agritourism.”

From participants’ surveys, Tomas and Rich learned that a majority of the webinar participants were female farmers age 50 to 64.  Most participants said they had no problems participating in the webinars and felt the webinar presentations were equal to or better than traditional Extension programs.

“When we began planning the series, we had some concerns as to whether farmers would use this technology and participate in the webinars,” Tomas said. “We were pleased to discover that nearly 60 percent  of all participants were indeed farmers, and several commented on how easy the webinar software was to use.”

Archived recordings of the webinars are available free from the Tourism Extension website: www.ncsu.edu/tourismextension. Tourism Extension is making plans to offer additional webinars in the near future.

— Natalie Hampton

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