NAFDMA, the international agritourism association, and the Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association (WATA) recently hosted the webinar “Promoting, Educating and Advocating for the Agricultural Tourism Industry” to discuss membership opportunities, working connections and key partnerships for Wisconsin farmers.
The webinar began with a welcome address from Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers. He said that while his state is known as “America’s Dairyland” there is wide variety in the state’s agricultural exports. “Wisconsin is home to 64,000 family farms on over 14 million acres that not only produce milk products, but also grow corn, soybeans, ginseng, potatoes and cranberries and raise pork, poultry and beef,” he said, adding that his goal is to see the Badger State’s ag output increase by 25% by 2026.
All of this makes Wisconsin a place of great opportunity, according to Sheila Everhart, WATA’s executive director.
“Agritourism is the adventure of learning, tasting and experiencing the origins of food. Wisconsin’s farmers, ranchers and producers do it well, showcasing the state’s diversity through tours, farm stays, farm-to-table dining and more.” Everhart said that recent collaborations between WATA and the state’s department of tourism have led to increased exposure and revenues for WATA members. “The recent state fair drew over 90,000 visitors in just one day. WATA was given a substantial amount of stage time and it was a great marketing opportunity for our members.” She added that many of the farms featured at that event have already seen a boost in inquiries regarding their agritourism opportunities.
The presentation also addressed the concern over liability frequently raised by potential agritourism hosts. Special attention was brought to Wisconsin Act 269. Lobbied for by WATA and enacted by the Wisconsin Legislature in 2013, the act provides immunity from liability for agricultural tourism providers in several ways. The act mandates that agricultural tourism activities are “recreational activities” under the state’s recreational immunity law. It also exempts agricultural tourism providers from liability for the death of or injury to a participant in an agricultural tourism activity if the participant is injured or killed as a result of a risk inherent in an agricultural tourism activity, and if the agricultural tourism provider posts and maintains regulation signage in a clearly visible location at each entrance to the property where the agricultural tourism activity takes place.
Everhart said she hopes if more farmers are aware of the protections of Act 269, they will be more willing to take advantage of Wisconsin’s burgeoning agritourism market.
by Enrico Villamaino