Polish Rural Tourism Study Has Lessons for American Agritourism

by Joanne Steele on May 3, 2013

 Museum of the Mazovian CountrysideThis week my “rural tourism” Google Alert dished up a 16 page booklet on agritourism in Poland that offers tons of information and ideas for agritourism organizations and farmers worldwide.

Tempting Tourists: Rural Tourism in Poland details how Polish governmental organizations and regional associations support local agritourism operations. Here’s what I took away:

European agritourism has a long history with much to teach growing efforts in the United States. What this document shows is how microenterprise organizations, the European equivalent of SBDC’s, tourism marketing organizations and rural tourism trade associations are working with Polish farmers and rural communities with a high rural tourism potential.

The question I took away from this is,  who helps the farmer navigate through all these opportunities and requirements? Who helps him or her to capture all the possible benefit and avoid all the possible mistakes?

As in the United States, Polish farmers are trying to “go it alone,” relying on families and friends to start their agritourism effort – up to 80% of the lodging options. Marketing is a significant problem. Development funds are available, but how does a farmer find about about those funds?

Perhaps the most valuable lesson from this booklet is that countries all over the world are grappling with the same problems. The step that is still missing, that is hinted at in this publication is having someone – a person – who has direct, personal, regular contact with farmers in areas with the most potential for agritourism, who can help them make it happen.

If you know about somewhere, where this is being done well, please shout it out! Farmers don’t have time to come into town and see 5 people behind 5 different desks in 5 different offices to get this information. It’s too important to rural economies and rural success to be left to chance.

And, we have to keep in mind that agritourism should be HELPING the farmer succeed, not supplanting farming as I noted in my past post: Is Agritourism Good for Small Family Farmers.

Visitors are ready and willing. The interest is clearly growing.

Photo of The Museum of the Mazovian Countryside in Sierpc, Poland on Flickr by Furya









1 Elizabeth A Trought May 4, 2013 at 3:01 pm

This totally misses the point that while state authorities and the Dept of Agriculture talk local foods and agritourism, the Congress has passed a total small farmer unfriendly Food Safety Act that will close every small farm in the country if the FDA’s regulations are allowed to move forward. Another example of how big government takes a relatively simple problem like contamination of raw food both by large mono-crop farmers and the long supply chain / get mixed up with big box stores need to decrease there liability and comes out with 1000s of pages of drivel that obviously never had any real farmer’ s input. We are also dealing with a mentality that doesn’t allow small farmers to look at value added tourist services – like having weddings on the farm. It is almost as bad as the new neighbor moving in from the city to enjoy rural life who complains about the smell from his neighboring farm after manure is spread.. congress doesn’t recognize that manure is the best soil builder we have not petrol-chemicals.

2 Joanne Steele May 5, 2013 at 6:50 pm

You miss my point here, Elizabeth. I understand what you’re saying and totally agree with you. My concern is that rather than putting time and attention to the real concerns and needs of small farmers producing local foods, agritourism may be distracting agencies and organizations from helping farmers farm and redirecting money, time and energy to helping farmers become innkeepers. If a farmer wants to make extra money hosting weddings, Great! But focus should be on farming and all the micro farming issues you referred. The issue of people moving away from the city to enjoy the rural life you refer to may be exacerbated by agritourism, where people experience the theme park version of farming where animals never poop.

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