Go Rural for Business - Blog
Scottish Agritourism Conference 2015
17th February 2015
Representing over 60 rural businesses from farm shops to on-farm accommodation providers to activity centres, Go Rural presented delegates with the results of an 800 strong consumer survey. Results revealed that, while a number of respondents had visited a farm previously (87%), many were ‘put off’ visiting more regularly due to a lack of information on which farm businesses welcomed members of the public.
With ‘freedom to explore’, ‘eat fresh food’ and ‘a good way to experience farm life’, the most cited reasons to visit a farm, the survey highlighted significant potential for rural businesses to grow their ventures and raise awareness of the farmer’s role in food production.
Many Go Rural members sell produce that is grown or reared on the farm, so we play a crucial role in linking farmers with consumers to tap into the growing demand for Scottish produce. We find that our customers are genuinely interested in how we rear our animals and produce our food. Once they understand the care, attention and provenance of the produce on offer they come back again and again and bring their friends.”
However, with limited marketing budgets and specialist skills, agritourism businesses are not exploiting what consumers most value – real experiences on real working farms.
Go Rural’s founder, Caroline Millar explains: “Telling your story is the theme of the conference and we heard from one Scottish success story, Mackie’s of Scotland, which has carved a compelling story based on fact, not fiction. Farmers in other European countries are more effective in communicating how they grow crops, rear their livestock and share their family story; the benefits of a more engaged consumer are compelling. We want to give Scottish farmers the skills and confidence to embrace the opportunities agritourism offers, which will not only improve their bottom line but also boost the performance of the sector.”
Karin Hayhow from Mackie’s of Scotland commented: “Mackie’s farming background is an important part of who we are and how we make our product. The food and tourism sectors do have good reason to work together – for the obvious reason that food plays an important part in any holiday – and good food can be the making of a holiday. The reputation of Scotland as a land of wonderful Food and Drink, and as a country with exceptional natural beauty, leads to the opportunity of combining the two wherever possible to deliver a fantastic and unique experience. The agritourism sector in particular plays another important role – opening the door for people to come and find out more about the sources of their fresh foods.”
Caroline added: “By embracing a globally recognised name for the sector we can capture foreign tourists who already buy into the offer. Food, farming and tourism open up so many opportunities for Scotland’s economy.”