Washington, DC – Potomac Heritage Partnership hosts the first Regional Rural and Agri-tourism Conference in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, June 19-21, 2003 at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center. Titled “Building Community Through Heritage Connections,” the conference is made possible by a USDA-Rural Business Opportunity Grant through the West Virginia USDA Rural Development office.
Featuring a multi-track conference with more than 20 sessions and nationally known speakers in rural and agritourism, attendees will enjoy a full program that also includes two day workshops, and opportunities for participants to exchange ideas and information at the ‘chat and chew’ breakfasts and evening receptions.
Rural and agri-tourism are becoming important parts of community and economic development strategies. Many farmers and rural business operators are creating or expanding tourism operations in order to diversify their business operations. “This conference brings together practitioners in both these areas” says Scott Gerloff, CEO of Potomac Heritage Partnership.
“Harvesting Travel Dollars through Agritourism” by Jane Eckert of Eckert Agrimarketing, will be the featured topic on Friday’s Luncheon. “One of the newest travel trends in America is also helping family farms thrive” says Jane. “It’s agritourism when the public visits working farms, ranches and wineries for entertainment, adventures and educational tours within a beautiful rural setting.” Raised on her family’s farm outside of St. Louis, Jane Eckert learned about the tour business at an early age. The farm attracted many tourists and as a young girl, Jane worked with the guests, helping to direct them from attraction to attraction. That experience was to prove valuable when she returned to her roots after a successful career in corporate marketing. At Eckert’s, she helped create one of the major destinations in the St. Louis area with 400,000 visitors each year.
Special workshops on Saturday, June 21, address two important topics – “Stretching Your Marketing Budget” presented by Jane Eckert, and “Successful Events and Festivals” by Kent E. Gustafson of the Tourism Center at the University of Minnesota. The University of Minnesota Tourism Center has designed a Certified Festival Management Program that focuses on the community event planning. Kent Gustafson will guide participants to learn the impact event marketing makes on communities and to develop a better understanding of the interaction of city officials, chambers of commerce and the community at large in event and festival planning.
Encouraged to attend are farmers and rural business operators, leaders in community development, tourism, historic preservation and agriculture, rural economic development specialists, and planners for hiking and biking trails, and outdoor recreation.