Miss-Lou taking advantage of agritourism

Published 12:20 am Monday, September 17, 2007

VIDALIA — What may seem like backbreaking field work for some may in fact be the ideal vacation for others, and some in the Miss-Lou hope to use agriculture as a way to attract tourists.

Rural agricultural tourism — agritourism — is a growing trend, and according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 62 percent of Americans traveled to a rural area within a three-year period.

Hoping to use the area’s agricultural backbone — among other things — as a way to bring more tourism to the Miss-Lou, the Miss-Lou Rural Tourism Association was formed in August.

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Lynette Tanner, an at-large director for the association who owns and operates Frogmore Plantation, said she understands that locals might not appreciate the concept of touring a farm as much someone from outside the area.

“A lot of southerners might feel like they already know everything there is about agriculture,” she said. “Of course we have — and want —southern tourism, but by and large the bulk of tourism comes from the north, from California and from Europe.”

One of the notable elements of the agritourism industry is that many farms allow tourists to do some farm work, or at least pretend to. For example, at Frogmore — which has a historic cotton gin tour but is also a working modern plantation — those who tour the plantation are given the opportunity to hand-pick cotton.

Tanner said she believes at least part of the interest in agritourism comes from a cultural paradigm shift, wherein most of the public is no longer involved in agriculture.

“Today people are no longer deeply involved in agriculture,” she said. “In 1900, there was a significant number more people involved in it, but today less than two percent of the population are.”

Others might do the agricultural tours — especially the historical ones — for sentimental reasons, Tanner said.

“A lot of older people might come out and reminisce about their younger years when they would work on a farm or visit a grandparents farm,” she said. “Those were good times for them, and they want to revisit those times and enjoy a bit of a slower time.”