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For Immediate Release: January 12, 2005

Contact: Lynne Richmond (609)292-8896

(TRENTON) – To determine the impact of the agri-tourism industry on the state’s economy, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture has authorized Rutgers University’s Food Policy Institute to conduct a comprehensive one-year study on agri-tourism in the Garden State, which is set to commence within the next few weeks. Last year, members were named to the New Jersey Agri-Tourism Industry Advisory Council, whose charge is to develop and expand the agri-tourism industry in the state. However, the current scope of the industry in the state is unknown since there has never been any formal accounting as to the extent of the industry. “This study will help paint a clearer picture as to the economic benefits provided by agri-tourism operations in the state,” said Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus. “Whether it’s a living history farm, pick-your-own operation or food festival, this study will inform the Department and the newly-formed Council on efforts to support and promote this agricultural sector.” The study is being paid for with a $58,000 grant provided by the Department to the Food Policy Institute. There are five objectives to the survey: 1) Identify and locate New Jersey farm operations that offer some form of agri-tourism activity. 2) Examine farmers’ and farm leaders’ perceptions of the opportunities presented by agri-tourism, as well as the challenges. 3) Document the type and scale of agri-tourism activities offered on New Jersey farms. 4) Evaluate the characteristics of farms engaging in agri-tourism, including the economic and non-economic benefits of agri-tourism. 5) Conduct a preliminary review of ordinances in a cross-section of municipalities to assess their compatibility with agri-tourism industry development. Agri-tourism is the business of making farms travel destinations for educational and recreational purposes. Activities include hayrides, corn mazes, pick-your-own operations, farm stands, school tours, farm festivals, and horseback riding. “Agri-tourism is really a win-win situation, generating more income for farm households and providing New Jersey residents with wonderful on-farm experiences,” said Brian Schilling, Associate Director of the Food Policy Institute. “We are doing a tremendous job preserving our farmland, and agri-tourism stands to be an important strategy for keeping our farmers – the stewards of that land - economically viable. “I see this project as a critical first step in positioning farmers interested in getting into farm-based tourism for success by understanding the current status of the industry as well as the challenges and opportunities they may face.” Schilling said the study would produce a directory of identified agri-tourism operations in New Jersey that will aid in agri-tourism promotion and facilitate integration of agri-tourism into existing promotional efforts by the state’s Office of Travel and Tourism. While there are no agri-tourism statistics in New Jersey, travel and tourism in general is the state’s second largest industry, generating $31 billion in revenues annually. As an example, income from agri-tourism related activities on Vermont farms totaled $19.5 million in 2002. “Agri-tourism offers the public affordable, family-oriented recreational activities and opportunities to learn about the production of food and agricultural products and the state’s rich farming heritage while helping to encourage the preservation of agricultural lands,” said Secretary Kuperus. “This study will provide a basis for state and county promotional efforts directed toward expanding agri-tourism and fill the current gaps in understanding the needs and challenges constraining the development of agri-tourism in the state.” The New Jersey Agri-tourism Industry Advisory Council held its first meeting in the fall. It is made up of five at-large agri-tourism operators; five designated members from the New Jersey Wine Industry, New Jersey Agricultural Fairs Association, New Jersey Equine Industry Advisory Council, New Jersey Direct Marketing Association, and New Jersey agricultural museums/living history farms; and four ex-officio members: the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, New Jersey Farm Bureau, Rutgers University, and the New Jersey Commerce and Economic Development Commission. The Council is an outgrowth of the Department’s economic development strategies and was created in acknowledgement of the agri-tourism sector’s potential for growth in New Jersey. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture provides these agri-tourism links: - For pick-your-own farms, roadside markets and community farmers’ markets: http://www.state.nj.us/jerseyfresh/ - For a comprehensive list of New Jersey gardens and arboretums: http://www.jerseygrown.nj.gov/njgardens.html - For New Jersey seafood festivals: http://www.nj.gov/seafood/