Visitors and values: A qualitative analysis of agritourism operator motivations across the U.S.
Owners of small- and medium-sized farms are increasingly interested in engaging in agritourism and direct sales in order to increase income, provide family employment, and educate the public about agriculture, among other reasons. Prior research on agritourism operator motivations largely focuses on economic goals and benefits, while acknowledging the strong influence of non-economic factors. However, more research is needed to better understand the nuances and breadth of non-economic motivations underlying agritourism operator decisions. In addition, research on U.S. agritourism tends to be at the state level, which raises questions about overall national trends and inter-study comparability. To address these gaps, we analyzed transcripts from semistructured interviews with small- and medium-sized farm owners engaged in agritourism from five states across the U.S. We examined the results through the theoretical lens of Allport’s “contact hypothesis” in order to further understand how agritourism helps operators meet stated goals. Our results suggest that consistent with previous literature, nonmonetary motivations are high priorities for farmers engaged in agritourism. In particular, motivations related to community engagement/leadership and quality-of-life emerged as forceful and reoccurring themes. We found that although Allport’s contact hypothesis holds some important explanatory power for understanding agritourism operators’ community-related goals—including reducing prejudice and increasing understanding between farmers and consumers in relation to agriculture—increased inter-group contact also has potential to create new conflicts between farmers and neighbors related to tourism. These findings have important implications for future research as well as for policies and programs aimed at supporting agritourism.
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