Agritourism plays two important roles. First, it educates the public about farming and their local food system. Second, it supports farmers by increasing sales opportunities and building a loyal customer base. The term encompasses an array of on-farm attractions, events, or services. Events can take a simple Ð and limited Ð form such participating in a stateÕs maple weekend. Or it can be as complex as opening a restaurant. Agritourism includes anything from school field trips, to B&Bs, to pick-your-own, and wine tastings. Sometimes fun, sometimes educational, sometimes both, the common threads are connection and experience.
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A common marketing mistake is starting with the tools: social media, labels, or logos. Instead, marketing starts with: the business story, business goals, and identifying customers.
The tried-and-true value-added maple products include candy and cream, and many producers have taken advantage of these products already. Some have gone further, adding maple products like ice cream, maple cotton candy, and maple-coated popcorn or nuts. More adventurous sugarmakers have begun making additional items, like salad dressings, hot sauces, and dog biscuits.
No two sugarmakers follow the exact same path. For some, their business grows slowly, one weekend farmers market at a time, and they prefer to stay small. Others build their backyard operations into wholesale businesses that keep them busy year-round. Some enjoy selling directly to their customers. And others would rather focus on production, and let established retailers take care of the rest. These snapshots of four sugaring enterprises illustrate just a few of those successful models.