Farm visits, overnight stays, weddings. Clearly, there’s more to farming than just growing food these days.
Agriculture is North Carolina’s primary industry, and the Visit NC Farms smartphone app aims to highlight this by being a one-stop-shop for all things agriculture and agritourism.
The application lists agricultural and agro-tourism destinations. Farms are labeled by what they offer, but viewers can also check out a map of what’s closest to them, whether they’re on vacation or at home.
The app already has more than 400 listed agricultural destinations in the state. By spring 2022, Haywood County Farms will take their place on the app, giving visitors and locals a way to experience Farms, and Farms only.
And it’s coming at a good time – more and more people are looking to connect with farms and local agriculture, said Julie Sawyer, Haywood County extension officer.
âPeople are looking for things related to agriculture. Family vacations can help children connect with where their food is coming from and show their appreciation for the outdoors, âSawyer said.
How it works
Each entry is labeled with the activities it offers, from farm tours to events, and the products it offers. On the app, users will find a way to experience all types of vegetables and fruits, animals and other products, such as fiber or cheese.
Developed by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the app has entries in many of the state’s 100 counties. The goal is to partner with local organizations, such as cooperative extensions and national governments, to find farms to join the app.
While the app may be farm-focused, anyone with an agriculture-based experience is welcome to get their business listed. Think farmers’ markets, farm-to-table restaurants and more.
âWe’re bringing together a comprehensive list of farming destinations, rural assets, and other county-related farming experiences including farm-to-table restaurants, farmers markets, special events,â Sawyer said.
Megan Riley of the MR Gardens Nursery in Asheville chose to list her farm on the app earlier this year when it was available for Buncombe County.
Although the growing season is over, Riley is hoping she can really see the benefits of the app next year.
âI think farming is a multi-faceted thing,â Riley said. âSmall farmers interact directly with customers. Adding the extra marketing work is a challenge. It’s a good challenge, but it takes time to grow, so any kind of support system for farmers is greatly appreciated.
With over 10,000 users across the state, the app’s users and listings are mostly concentrated in Piedmont and the eastern part of North Carolina. But Sawyer hopes the addition of farms in WNC will lead to growth in regional users, both visitors and locals.
Sure, a Google search would likely end up bringing up every farm, but Riley said being a small farmer means that sometimes your product and your farm gets lost in the overhaul. And agriculture being a key part of North Carolina’s economy, the competition is stiff.
Having a centralized location to find, say, a pick-your-own berry farm or discover tours of farms in your area can also be less overwhelming for consumers.
Another benefit of signing up to be listed on the app is that it’s free. The Extension Agency, Haywood County Government, and County Commissioners budgeted for the costs.
During its first year, the county pays $ 1,500 for up to 50 entries on the app. Indeed, Haywood signed up for the app as part of a five-county group with the counties of Henderson, Madison, Jackson and Mitchell. The cost could increase if there is more interest, but this is ultimately seen as a worthwhile investment.
âThe app is a great way to connect with farms, food and local people. It’s a great way to see what’s out there and what’s available, âSawyer said.
Find the app in your smartphone’s app store or visit visitncfarmstoday.com for more information.
To have a farm or agribusiness listed on Visit NC Farms, contact Julie Sawyer at Haywood County Cooperative Extension by calling 828-456-3575 or emailing [email protected]