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Agritourism Project Gains National Attention

By Travis Morse
Posted May 06, 2011 @ 03:48 PM
Galena, Ill. —

A major agritourism project in Jo Daviess County is attracting national attention, and will be featured at a special rural development conference this month.
For about a year, Jo Daviess County officials have been developing an initiative to make agritourism a top priority in their region. The project, known as “Discover the Flavors of Jo Daviess County,” began last spring when the Jo Daviess County Farm Bureau partnered with the Galena/Jo Daviess County Convention and Visitors Bureau to “assess, plan, and increase the impact of agritourism,” organizers say.
While the initiative is still ongoing, it will be featured in a presentation before national rural development leaders at the American Farm Bureau Federation Rural Development Conference (May 10 to 12). The hope is that the presentation will give other states and counties across the U.S. the chance to learn about how to develop a collaborative agritourism program like the one being attempted in Jo Daviess County.
Plus, the presentation before a national audience will increase the visibility of Jo Daviess County’s project, said Dorian Dickinson, managing partner of SotaVenture, LLC. SotaVenture, based in Dubuque, Iowa, is a marketing/development firm that is assisting Jo Daviess County with the agritourism venture at no charge to the county, Dickinson said.
“It is major exposure for the county,” Dickinson said of the conference.
The overall goal of the Jo Daviess County project is to increase awareness of existing agritourism businesses in the county, and to encourage other farmers to start such businesses, Dickinson said. Examples of such businesses include wineries, farm and garden tours, farm bed and breakfast establishments, alpaca farms, and more.
“There are dozens of these that are already in operation,” Dickinson said. “We want to provide the visitors, as well as business operators, increased education opportunities (to learn) what is available in the county and what can be available in the county.”
Survey Planned
In August 2010, SotaVenture facilitated a Jo Daviess County Agritourism Leadership Retreat which brought area tourism and agriculture officials together. Organizers are now planning to distribute a survey on the project to farm bureau members, and this will be done at a Member Appreciation Picnic on June 15. The survey will give organizers a better indication of where this project should be heading, said Annette McLane, manager of the Jo Daviess County Farm Bureau.
To McLane, agritourism is a natural fit for a rural county like Jo Daviess, and this initiative has a good chance of being successful. In the future, McLane said she would like to organize special events at area farms where non-farm visitors could have a chance to ask questions and learn more about agriculture.
“There are strong agriculture and tourism industries in Jo Daviess County,” McLane said. “We can work together and both of us can thrive in the county as we are.”
For more information on the agritourism project, contact the Jo Daviess County Farm Bureau at (815) 858-2235. Organizers hope to create a website for the initiative in the near future.

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