Go Rural for Business - Blog
Working together to make our Agritourism industry one to rival the Italians by Fiona Gammie, Westerton Farmers
26th October 2015
When I told people I was heading to the beautiful Tuscan countryside for work, most of them laughed and asked how on earth I managed to wangle such a trip, and I could see why! I promised to come back and report on my findings, trying to draw some conclusions as to how this trip was going to help our family business…. So here it goes!
One of the key factors in being an Agritourismo is that farming has to be the main activity within the business. As a result of this I was already expecting to find the owners of the businesses to be passionate, as I don’t think you would survive as a farmer without passion! I was surprised by the passion and enthusiasm that went with the tourism part of their businesses and how well it all fitted in with the working farm. Many of the farm owners speak about how the tourism aspect compliments the farm well, and allows visitors to see how their food is produced. A really great example of that was Sandra who we visited at Il Casale, probably the most motivated person I have ever met. Her and her Husband worked long hours on the farm, the couple had a restaurant on site, and produced their own food.
One of the regulations around having a restaurant on site is that around 90% of the food they serve must be from the region, and 30% from your own farm. This is a brilliant idea and one which would certainly encourage businesses in Scotland to trade locally and work with each other. There is a very generous tax relief scheme for Agritouismo’s, which sees them paying less VAT and income tax compared to their tourism counterparts. This was put in place to encourage farmers to diversify their businesses. Agritourism is also a recognised sector within the Italian goverments and local councils – meaning it receives a dedicated pot of money from CAP to help boost the industry. This was around €30m for Tuscany along in 2015.
We also visited a farmers market, which on the day we saw it was not very large – however one of the stall holders told us each business there would pay the union (It was assumed he meant the farming union – similar to NFU) €250.00 to attend as many farmers markets as they wanted to within a year. Compare this to the £100/150 so businesses can be ask to pay in Scotland, for ONE farmers market, and we can see how much more supportive the Italian systems are to small farming businesses.
We saw such a variety of businesses, people and produce – and although none of these exact ideas will translate back to Scottish soil (we don’t have the climate!) the concepts are very clear, and ones which we as a business will be looking to implement soon. We do need the support from our government and other Industry bodies in order to make this happen – which is where Go Rural come in – hopefully we can all work together and make our Agritourism industry one to rival the Italians.
Find out more about Westerton Farmers here