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February 06, 2009   Email to Friend 

Darryal Ray
(334) 613-4187
February 06, 2009

AUBURN, Ala. -- A series of five meetings is scheduled across the state March 2-9 to assess the need of developing an association to promote the agri-tourism industry in Alabama, according to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

The meetings are sponsored by the Alabama Farmers Federation, ACES, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, Alabama Tourism Department, Alabama Farmers Market Authority and the Alabama Department of Transportation. The meeting schedule is:

March 2, 10 a.m. -- Morgan County Extension Office, Hartselle

March 2, 3 p.m. -- Young & Vann Building, 1st Ave. North and 18th Street, Birmingham.

March 3, 10 a.m. -- Alabama Farmers Cooperative, Selma

March 4, 10 a.m. -- Holiday Inn Express, Fairhope

March 9, 10 a.m. -- Landmark Park, Dothan

Tom Chesnutt, a tourism specialist with Extension, said combining two of the state's major industries -- agriculture and tourism -- could be highly beneficial. Each of those industries had $9 billion impact on the state's economy last year.

"It would enhance the agri-tourism industry in Alabama, serve as an industry networking group, allow industry members input, provide additional marketing opportunities and make possible the development of a state highway signage program and an accreditation program," said Chesnutt.

Agri-tourism is a commercial enterprise at any agricultural site, including horticulture and agribusiness operations, conducted for the enjoyment of visitors that generates supplemental tourism income for the owner.

Agri-tourism could involve farm tours and stays, roadside stands and markets, U-pick operations, on-farm sales, festivals and fairs, guided crop tours, petting zoos, hay rides, habitat improvement projects, bird watching and wildlife viewing, hunting dog training and competition, trap and skeet shooting, fee fishing and hunting, barn dances, corn and hay mazes, garden and nursery tours, historical agricultural exhibits, exotic animal farms and other activities.

Other states, including Georgia, Mississippi, Illinois, Oklahoma and Tennessee, already have agri-tourism associations in place. These organizations are industry-driven associations, guided solely by its voting membership, which are agri-tourism owners and operators. State agencies are ex-officio members.

For more information, contact Chesnutt at (334) 844-3517 or jchesnut@aces.edu.

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