21st Century “isms”
Aug 01, 2018 08:30AM
● By Jason Huddle
21st Century “isms”
With Cabarrus County’s continued growth comes changes to its landscape – both literally and figuratively.
Once-rural land is paving the way for development, often taking farmland that’s been in families for generations. Cabarrus Magazine regularly discusses the changing face of tourism in our region, and that’s now taking the shape of popular trends like agritourism and ecotourism.
According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, “The state ranks first in the nation in farm cash receipts for tobacco and sweet potatoes; second for poultry and eggs; and third for pork and trout. Along with these commodities, North Carolina’s hardworking farmers produce cotton, soybeans, peanuts, hogs and pigs, nursery products, aquaculture products and more.
“And North Carolina agriculture is more than just commodities. Agritourism, agricultural exports, healthy eating incentives and research are just a few of the other aspects of the state’s industry. About 49,500 farms spread across 8.4 million acres of land across the state, with each farm averaging about 168 acres in size. All these farms strongly contribute to agriculture’s economic impact on North Carolina, which rings in at $76 billion annually.”
Still, the North Carolina Cooperative Extension points out that the sale of traditional crops like tobacco has taken a downturn, so farmers are looking for ways to supplement their income while not abandoning their agricultural operations and heritage.
In a report entitled, The Current State of Agritourism Research in the United States, “Changes in the economy combined with fluctuations in agricultural income and the desire to preserve land and resources has placed increased pressure on farmers across the nation to examine alternative economic opportunities. Many farmers are turning to agritourism as an entrepreneurial response to increase on-farm sales of their value-added products and services, and generate revenues directly associated with recreational and tourism activities.”
In a nutshell, agritourism brings visitors to the farm to educate or entertain – or both. Farming families are transforming at least portions of their farms and marketing them for the benefit of those looking for alternative event space and recreational and family-oriented activities.
This includes barns converted into event venues and grounds set up for weddings. It can also come in the form of u-pick produce; on-site farmers markets; pumpkin patches and corn mazes; vineyards with tours and tastings; petting zoos; and historical tours. Additionally, it’s exposing a young generation to agricultural operations they’re likely not familiar with, helping them realize the level of work involved in producing locally sourced goods.
As farmers look for new ways to provide agritourism, its popularity continues to grow. This contributes to the local tax base and, in some cases, brings employment opportunities.
Pinktractor.com says that agritourism in North Carolina has grown by 89 percent in the past 10 years, noting that the U.S. Census of Agriculture reported an increase of 900-plus agritourism farm operations (from 3,637 to 4,518) between 2007 and 2012 that grossed more than $25,000 annually.
And the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services states that, “Today’s farmers also are offering weekend farm stays, weaving workshops and even goat yoga to entice visitors to their farms.”
As the name implies, ecotourism embodies recreation in nature while also preserving the environment. Also referred to as responsible travel, it is a means to educate visitors about what has been preserved in Cabarrus County. It can present itself in the form of parks, waterways, hiking trails, etc.
What differentiates ecotourism from agritourism is that nature is impacted as little as possible. The World Conservation Union says, “Ecotourism is distinguished by its emphasis on conservation, education, traveler responsibility and active community participation. Specifically, ecotourism possesses the following characteristics:
• Conscientious, low-impact visitor behavior;
• Sensitivity towards, and appreciation of, local cultures and biodiversity;
• Support for local conservation efforts;
• Sustainable benefits to local communities;
• Local participation in decision-making;
• Educational components for both the traveler and local communities.”
Ecotourism is perfect for those who want to immerse themselves in nature and the outdoors, but appreciate the effort to conserve. It’s also a great educational tool in sharing the resources here in Cabarrus County.
Article by: Kim Cassell
Bridge Photo Courtesy: CLC