The National Agritourism Professionals Association had its origins in the Southeast Region Agritourism Council (SERAC), a group of some fifty volunteer rural tourism service providers and famers in fourteen southeastern states who organized in 2005. This group organized to address the regulatory and marketing issues that often were challenges to growing and sustaining agritourism farms in the region. Members of this group met through the early years at various state agricultural conferences. During the years when budgeting often prevented travel, SERAC stayed together primarily through internet networking and communication channels. As word of SERAC spread through various state and national organizations, many service providers and farmers expressed interest in forming a national organization as the needs of agritourism and direct-market farmers identified by SERAC were similar to those in other areas across the US and Canada.
Organizational plans for the National Agritourism Professionals Association (NAPA) began in 2011. Members across the US and Canada are national, state and local-level professional agricultural and rural service providers and agritourism and direct-market farmers. The professionals hold positions responsible for providing tools and resources to assist agritourism farmers and farm direct markets in many common areas. The successful agritourism farmers and direct farm market members share farm business experiences which complement and enhance the communication strengths, information avenues and growing visibility of the organization. In addition, other professionals with tourism interests, particularly in the rural segment of our society, have expressed interest in and support NAPA’s mission.
NAPA members will provide assistance to agritourism enterprises that face challenges of policy and bureaucratic regulations in areas such as zoning, insurance, venue safety, highway signage, food safety, and risk assessment and liability as well as continuing to bring the best marketing trends, practices and networking opportunities. Information on these topics will be provided through national Train-the-Trainer conferences, and participants will take information back to regional and local farmer workshops. Traditionally, these issues have not been emphasized at such workshops for lack of experience and information in finding solutions to such issues. NAPA members will be able to provide those resources.
In this business model, agricultural resource service providers will supply the academic, theoretical, research and practical information, and farmer members will ‘vet’ the resources and potential solutions they have found through their personal business experiences as well as being able to bring new issues to the table. NAPA will provide members with the necessary tools and methods to begin the process to solve problems in regulatory and policy areas. NAPA will assist its farmer and service provider members with ways to form relationships with elected officials, policy-makers and industry leaders in areas of mutual interest or concern. NAPA will also encourage and assist states in developing state or regional agritourism networking organizations where information-sharing and networking will be available online as well as in workshops.
Service providers introduce strong networking opportunities for farmers to share experiences, exchange ideas and ‘lessons learned,’ solve problems, and partner to publicize these efforts. Service providers, with their unique professional backgrounds, understand and are able to provide many of
these services as well as building collaborative applied research projects benefiting the development of agritourism. Farmers bring their rich experiences and ‘on the ground’ dedication to continuing their farming heritage and promoting new agritourism ventures. They are willing to mentor and help other farmers who may be just beginning or are relatively new in adding agritourism activities at their farms, ranches, vineyards and related agricultural venues.
Through existing state networks that will continue to grow, NAPA will build awareness of its mission, goals and membership among professionals in agriculture and rural tourism and farmers who strongly support the developing agritourism and direct farm-market industry.
NAPA will partner and collaborate with the North American Farmers Direct Marketing Association to bring information on policy issues as well as the best practices in marketing to help agritourism farmers and direct farm markets grow their success and increase their prosperity. NAPA will seek to partner with organizations with similar missions that support the agritourism concept.
NAPA is incorporated, is applying for 501-c-3 IRS exempt status, has an Advisory Board, and currently lists close to 250 interested supporters in every state in the US and eight Canadian provinces. At its organizational meeting in Indianapolis on August 12, 2014, the Organizational Board of Directors adopted bylaws, developed a dues structure, and began planning the first national conference. The 2015 NAPA Train-the-Trainer conference will be held in Nashville, Tennessee on Saturday, January 31.
NAPA Founder and Acting Executive Director
108 Forest Hills Court
Cary NC 27511