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AERO releases agritourism development guide

News from Alternative Energy Resources Organization

AERO has recently released Developing Montana’s Agritourism: A Resource Manual, the first of its kind in the state, to help Montana’s farmers, ranchers, and producers explore agritourism as a product offering and economic opportunity. The manual connects agriculturalists with information on how to start their own agritourism business by providing guidelines for building a business and marketing plan, compiling important contacts and resources, discussing risk management, and sharing existing agritourism success stories around the state. Ultimately, the manual aims to empower small businesses and engage Montanans and visitors alike in exploring local agriculture. 

During the 2017 legislative session, Montana defined agritourism as a form of commercial enterprise linking agricultural production with tourism in order to attract visitors to a farm, ranch, or other agricultural business for entertainment or education. House Bill 342 officially added agritourism to the list of Montana Recreational Activities, opening up opportunities to develop the industry. AERO’s Agritourism Manual works to fill the knowledge gap at a crucial time, providing resources for the budding industry in Montana. As Ben Thomas, Director of the Montana Department of Agriculture notes: “Montana’s two biggest industries are agriculture and tourism. Combining them to create meaningful agricultural experiences for tourists and producers alike is a valuable way for agricultural businesses to diversify their revenue. The Montana Department of Agriculture applauds AERO’s leadership in creating this agritourism resource manual for Montana farmers and ranchers.” 

Alan Merrill, President of the Montana Farmers Union, agrees: “There is huge potential for Montana farmers and ranchers to utilize agritourism as a way to add revenue to their operation and to educate the public on all agriculture has to offer our great state. We appreciate the effort it took to put together this manual and feel it will be a very valuable resource for producers, consumers and those wanting to learn more about agriculture.”

 The manual was developed by AERO staff with the support of the USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program, and the Agritourism Working Group, consisting of the Montana Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, MSU Extension, Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Food and Ag Development Center Network, and the Montana Farmers Union. The manual is available for online viewing or downloading at www.aeromt.org/agritourism. AERO encourages your feedback, comments, success stories, and other responses to the manual’s content. Please contact program manager Kaleena Miller at kmiller@aeromt.org to join the conversation about agritourism in Montana.  

The mission of AERO is to empower communities to nurture and promote a more sustainable Montana. We envision a future where all Montanans have access to clean energy, healthy food, sustainable agriculture, and a network that provides leadership, resources, and advocacy. To learn more about AERO’s programs and projects supporting a sustainable future for Montana, visit www.aeromt.org.

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