Lena Juarez | Agritourism

April 17, 2024   |   Farm & Nurseries

This podcast episode features Lena Juarez, of the Florida Agritourism Association, to discuss how agritourism can benefit landowners.

Lena Juarez is the Founder of JEJ & Associates and the Executive Director of the Florida Agritourism Association. In this episode of In Our Expert Opinion Real Estate Podcast, Lena discusses the evolving world of agritourism, highlighting its significant impact on Florida's economy and the opportunities it presents for local farmers and landowners.

Below is an excerpt from the interview. Listen above for the full podcast.

What is agritourism? Agritourism has been around since the beginning of time, but it's become more recognized and defined in this past decade, certainly by the Florida legislature. Essentially, it takes the top two industries of Florida, tourism and agriculture, and we have agritourism.

It's a great opportunity for farmers and ranchers to expand their offerings. The legislation in 2013 essentially protects farmers and gives them liability protection to invite the public to their farms for agritourism events and activities.

Florida has 21 million residents, we have over 125 million visitors a year, and you think about the opportunities for farms and ranches to offer agritourism activities. While the statute has a definition of agritourism, it's broad enough to allow farmers and ranchers to be very entrepreneurial in what they consider “agritourism”.

Basically, it is fruit and vegetable U-Pick-Its, fall festivals, pumpkin patches, and crop mazes. We have a lot of members who have venues, so you think about weddings, maybe some corporate retreats happen there, or other gatherings. Agritourism is very broad, and it's a very exciting time for Florida's farmers.

How do you promote agritourism? We try our best to reach out to agricultural groups and our existing members to encourage them to spread the word about agritourism, particularly if they've had a very positive experience.

We have an annual conference that's coming up on July 28-30 in Kissimmee. This will be our second one. And we really encourage any farmer, rancher, or those who are even interested in agritourism to come and learn more about it.

We have moved to the Central Florida area simply because we know there's going to be such great interest in this conference. There are so many educational opportunities, you're going to learn about the basics of agriculture and law, the kind of insurance you might need, how to be a good neighbor, anything related to marketing and social media, good practices, and, of course, we'll have a lot of great speakers and amazing networking opportunities.

Has agritourism faced resistance? There are always conflicts with local government when you're starting a new endeavor, but a few years ago, one of the other amendments to the statute was to add agritourism to the Right to Farm Act. That happened when Wilton Simpson was the Senate President, now he's our Agricultural Commissioner.

So, it's good to know that we have that support and faith in agritourism. I think that, in general, our farmers and ranchers that are members, we encourage them to be good neighbors by knowing what the regulations related to offsite impacts in their communities might be.

Why choose agritourism? Some years, the farmers or ranchers just don't have a good year; the crop didn’t come in, something happens in the market, we have a natural disaster, and there needs to be an opportunity to create additional income. 

Agritourism activities don't necessarily happen year-round. It really depends on what assets you have on your farm and what you decide to organize. Some of our members might have one event a year and others have them almost every weekend. It really depends on what your goal is and what you're wanting to promote.

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