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Pettus L. Read, Tennessee Farm Bureau
Mark Twain is one individual whose writings and quotes I have always enjoyed, beginning at an early age. After all these years that his pen has been silent, I still run across quotes that are so relevant to today’s events and happenings. He once wrote, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” That little statement alone could very easily apply to the current issues facing this country and how we come out of the things that seem to be making the circuit these days. Twain also said, “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” That quote may be the one many of our folks who run the 24-hour newscasts on TV have taken to heart.
But there are still those out there who are interested in doing things the right way. A group of folks I have worked with over the years, who enjoy being in the background at times and seem to remain rather humble when it comes to spreading the news about what they do and have accomplished, are starting to learn that to become a part of the agritourism industry, one has to do some marketing or a little bragging at times. A farmer told me one time that he didn’t like to brag about his products and thought it just wasn’t right to do so. He may have remembered what Twain said about bragging. He said, “Bragging and braying were one in the same. The only difference is one came from an animal with longer ears.”
Mark Twain may have had something there, but if you are going to be successful in today’s agri-marketing business model you will have to become involved in promoting your product, and farmers across this state are doing so everyday. In fact, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, along with the Center for Profitable Agriculture supported by UT Extension and the Tennessee Farm Bureau, is even teaching them how to do so. They are regularly holding workshops to teach farmers how to brand their products and talk to groups about what they do. They are even taught how to talk about their products at times, and as my granddaddy once said, “If it’s the truth, it ain’t bragging.”
Agritourism continues to grow around Tennessee with farmers using their farms as a way to make additional income other than the traditional way from farm production. Many have pick-your-own produce operations, corn mazes, petting farms, trail rides, Christmas tree farms, fall festivals and other activities that invite consumers to visit the farms in their area. There is even a website you can go to that lists numerous farms across the state that are involved in agritourism. The site is www.tennesseeagritourism.org and has a lot of information about Tennessee agritourism.
In a survey that profiled Tennessee agritourism a couple years back, it reported that almost 63 percent of those operators engaged in this type of program had attended an agritourism educational program. The survey news release stated, “On average, operators estimated that these programs influenced their sales in 2012 with an increase of 19.9 percent. The total estimated impact for the industry of educational programs in the last three years is nearly $7.6 million.”
The news release also went on to say that those involved did not always find success to come easy either. They said that several survey respondents reported they had operated an agritourism operation but were no longer in business. The most commonly given reason for not staying in business was the inability to attract enough customers or make enough sales. While marketing and attracting customers are big challenges, other obstacles include working with family, securing capital, meeting regulatory requirements, zoning issues and more.
But, if you have made a farmers market recently, you just may be itching to give agritourism a try. I would suggest before you grow long ears and start bragging about your crop, you contact someone who can give you a little advice before your ears get you in trouble. One good place to start is by going to the Center for Profitable Agriculture website at: https://ag.tennessee.edu/cpa. They can put you on the right trail and help prevent you from dealing with things that can cause ear problems.
There is a lot in Tennessee agriculture to brag about and the ear length really doesn’t matter.