Tourism not just for downtown

Published 12:39 am Monday, March 10, 2008

VIDALIA — Tourism season is here again, and one local group is doing what they can to encourage tourism not only to local cities, but also to farms.

Formed in August 2007, the Miss-Lou Rural Tourism Association works with 17 counties and 16 parishes in Mississippi and Louisiana to encourage smaller communities to search out and expand any rural tourism venue they have.

“In rural areas, agriculture is basically what is there,” association member-at-large Lynette Tanner said.

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But that doesn’t mean tourists can’t find an area interesting, association member Guylyn Boles said.

“We have an alpaca farm and a couple of turtle farms in the parish that I think people would like to visit,” Boles said.

People who are touring rural areas are now getting interested in getting to know the personal side of those areas, Tanner said.

“I guess they want to have a little bit more of an intimate experience,” she said. “Looking at something in a museum is completely different than hearing it firsthand from a person who has lived it.”

But there are some issues with which the association has to work.

“The insurance premiums most companies have are so expensive that it’s prohibitive for most (agriculture) operations to be able to do (agritourism),” Tanner said.

Boles agreed.

“Right now, if someone wanted to go to a farm and watch someone milk some cows, most farmers couldn’t afford to let them,” she said.

Boles said she recently met with new Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain about placing a cap on liability insurance for farmers so they could branch out and allow more tourism to come through.

“There is a bill on his desk, and he is seriously considering that,” Boles said.

Once that issue gets ironed out, local farmers may be able to grow their attractions in little ways, Boles said.

“Maybe in time we could have some outdoor adventures like a seasonal hayride, but first we’d have to be able to use somebody’s land,” she said.