Monday, March 19, 2018

Virginia Agri-tourism Conference: Bringing Visitors To Your Farm

On March 22, 2018 I will be addressing the Virginia Agri-tourism Conference in Williamsburg. In November we presented a day long session at the horse lot for the annual meeting of the Livestock Breeds Conservancy on using entertainment, education, and public service to promote nearly extinct strains of Colonial Spanish horses.

The upcoming presentation will  highlight what we do at the horse lot in our unconventional approach to attract novices to riding and horse ownership. I will spend less time on how we do things than I will on why we do things.

Agri-tourism can bring additional revenue to farmers, but even more important is what it can bring to the visitors. It can bring meaning to the lives of the visitors. Our nation has not been as divided as we now are since the Civil War. Too many techno kids live lives trapped inside a smart phone or video games. Too many parents have no idea how to connect with their kids. Too many people struggle with depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

A renaissance of rural culture and cultural education, linked with a strong effort to expose urban and suburban families to the soil can help alleviate the emptiness of the soul felt by too many people. I know how much our program changes lives. I know how few of our participants are from rural families. I know what it does for them to exchange the fleeting pleasure of technology for the time worn satisfaction of hard work, production of livestock and crops, and development of the creativity to produce art and music.

Take a look at what goes on at the Wayne C. Henderson School of Appalachian Arts. Though there is not a horse at that facility, people who truly understand our program will readily see that much of what we provide to our visitors and program participants is the same connectedness that places like the Henderson School provide.

Virginia needs to facilitate the development of more programs that bring people out of the cities and suburbs to learn to apply the best of rural values to their lives.

And the visitors are not the only ones who benefit from these programs. Connecting with urban and suburban kids and families gives country people the opportunity to better understand the common humanity that we all share.

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