Agritourism workshop scheduled

Jenna French

Shenandoah County Tourism and Fields of Gold are looking to enhance a growing aspect of the valley: agritourism.

The county, in association with the marketing group Fields of Gold, has scheduled an agritourism workshop from 5-7 p.m. Thursday at North Mountain Vineyard in Maurertown.

County Tourism and Marketing director Jenna French said that the county “hasn’t done something like this in quite some time.”

“With agriculture being one of our top industries here in the county, it’s important that we stay in touch with a lot of those individuals,” French said.

French noted that another reason for the workshop is to give area producers and farmers an opportunity to meet Tracey Coltrain, the newly appointed agritourism director for Fields of Gold.

“[Fields of Gold] is something that launched a few years ago and it is something that we have been a part of … since its inception,” French said.

The upcoming workshop is, French said, “An opportunity to regroup between ourselves, Fields of Gold and all of these individual partners and kind of help form the forward vision for the organization.”

Essentially, that vision would be to enhance agritourism for all parties involved.

“I would say that we see it as a key part of attracting visitors to this area, it’s one of our strongest assets,” French said.

A membership with Fields of Gold, French explained, is “free of charge,” but that it contains stipulations that members “must be open to visitors.”

By meeting this criteria, French said it provides another marketing avenue by having information about that particular farm or business displayed on FieldsofGold.org.

“We really want to encourage as many people to take advantage of this as possible,” French said. “It really takes no effort on their part.”

One of the major issues in convincing certain operations to commit to agritourism is the cost of insurance or even the legal aspects of allowing visitors on farms.

French said, “Oftentimes, that’s a hurdle that a lot of people that have a farm … have a lot of questions about, ‘What happens if somebody trips and falls?'”

According to French, Fields of Gold hosts workshops throughout the valley to discuss the various aspects involved with agritourism, such as insurance.

“Part of this workshop on the 19th is going to be Tracey [Coltrain] … talking about some of these types of things that they have in store,” French said.

The workshop will also have light snacks and hors d’oeuvres available, as well as wine and local farm products available for sale.

“It was Tracey’s suggestion that, if we hold it at a vineyard after hours, most people like to come and enjoy some wine,” French said, adding that North Mountain is a “central location within the county.”

In addition, French noted that North Mountain has also been a part of Fields of Gold since the beginning and has been important in aiding new agritourism operations.

“They are always very willing to help and reach out to newcomers to the scene, so they just seemed like a great fit when we were looking for locations to do this,” French said.

More information about the workshop can be found at http://tinyurl.com/k9j26cz.