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A Word From the Board

What a great time of year for Georgia Agritourism! Most operations are gearing up for the Spring/Summer seasons…making a list and checking it twice. This could be considered the calm before a really fun storm.

So there is no better time to attend the 2018 GA Agritourism Annual Conference, March 5-6 at Unicoi State Park Lodge in Helen, GA. Early registration ends this Friday, February 23, so don’t wait – Register Today. The timing of the conference is perfect to enable operators glean ideas from other operations both on the Farm Tour as well as through general networking. Then the educational sessions will help focus your thoughts on new concepts to incorporate into your operation, boost business ideas, and enhance customer service.

And if that is not enough to attend, there will be a very exciting announcement about the future of the Georgia Agritourism Association! (I’m giggling and can’t help it!)

I look forward to seeing many of you in Helen in just a couple of weeks and as always your Georgia Agritourism Association is here for you. 

Beth Oleson
GAA Executive Director



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Educational Agenda

This year we have an exceptional educational agenda lined up for the 2018 GA Agritourism Annual Conference. While details are below, don’t miss two very special speakers:

Leigh Funderburk of Stoney Creek Farm in Franklin, Tennessee will kick off our Conference as the keynote speaker at Monday night’s dinner. She will her family’s journey of leaving corporate life to start their sustainable farm and agritourism operation. She and husband, Olin, chronicled their journey in "Dirt Rich: How to Experience More Joy and Less Stress Through Sustainable Farm Living".

Hugh McPherson, Founder of Maize Quest, is a dynamic speaker who will send attendees back home ready to make their businesses and workforce better. As a bonus, all attendees who stay until the end of the Conference will receive a copy of his new book, "The 31-Day Workforce Turnaround".

Monday, March 5
All activities taking place at Unicoi State Park Lodge, Masters Ballroom, 3rd Floor unless otherwise stated

6:45 a.m. Registration Opens

7:30 a.m. Load Agritourism Farm Tour Buses

8:00 a.m. Agritourism Farm Tour Departs - Sponsored by Center of Innovation for Agribusiness

5:45 p.m. Welcome Reception

6:15 p.m. GAA Business Meeting

6:45 p.m. Conference Kick-Off Dinner - Sponsored by Bagwell Insurance Group
Keynote Speaker: Leigh Funderburk, Stoney Creek Farm, Franklin, TN "What Does it Mean to be Dirt Rich?"

Tuesday, March 6
All activities taking place at Unicoi State Park Lodge, Masters Ballroom, 3rd Floor

7:00 am Registration Opens

8:00 am General Session Begins
General session educational topics, Fun trivia, networking, exhibitors, silent auction, lunch, and breaks

Session 1: Learning can be FUN on the Farm - Incorporating STEM
A buzz word in education today is STEM. Science. Technology. Engineering. Mathematics. STEM concepts can be found in agriculture everywhere you look. How can we use these concepts in agritourism to expand field trips and farm tours? Tune in to find out

Session 2: Connecting with Your Customers - Showcase Your FUN

Using a Blogger to Promote Your Farm
Charlotte Cruce has been blogging for years and attended GAA's 2017 FAM Tour last August. Tune in to learn how to network with bloggers to promote your agritourism operation. Cruce will also share a few tips for telling your story through social media.

How Social Media Partners Promote Agritourism
Katie Christoff, along with a team of social media influencers, is a face behind the Explore Georgia social media campaigns. In 2017, Georgia's Department of Economic Development - Tourism division ran a campaign called #ExploreGeorgiaFarms, promoting several GAA farms, Christoff will provide an update on the campaign in addition to tips for engaging your customers through social media

Session 3: FRESH from the Farm

Food Safety on the Farm
While food safety is certainly a priority for all farmers, what food safety items do we easily forget about when it comes to agritourism? Sampling product. Cleaning. Packing product. Handwashing stations and more. Join us to learn from Mercier Orchard’s Food Safety Officer.

Fresh Boxes
Convenience is key in the 2018 food industry. Learn how this farm diversified in 2017 to start a produce box delivery program. Spring Hill Fresh, from field to fork.

Plugging in Your Farm to Local School Systems
As the local food movement has grown, so has the request for Georgia Grown products in local school systems. How can your farm's products make it to a school's lunch table? Find out in this session.

Session 4: FRESH Ideas for Your Business

Getting Your Product to Market
The LEM team know firsthand the importance of bringing product to market and cross promoting via working with a variety of partners. Join us for this presentation to learn the value to operators partnering with local entrepreneurs.

Logistics, Staffing, Merchandising and More
Brandon Smith has been a hands-on partner in connecting Georgia agritourism interests with local farmers markets since 2010. He currently manages the logistics, distribution, staffing and merchandising for three Georgia farms at more than 20 weekly farmers markets around metropolitan Atlanta

Session 5: Happy Customers = Business Success

Market Displays
How one chooses to display their product and/or farm experience plays a role in sales. Everything from displaying canned/jarred items in a certain way. pies, ice cream, meats, trees, etc. Customers are also encouraged to shop via the setting in which they are in. From photo backdrops and samples, to a farm's easy to read and follow signs. Glean some fresh ideas from this panel of operators.

Customer Service
Speaker: Hugh McPherson, Maize Quest, Founder
We are not in business without our customers. In our final presentation, learn how to better your operation's interaction with customers.
All attendees who stay until the end of the Conference will receive a copy of The 31-Day Workforce Turnaround by Hugh McPherson that gives you daily actions to make you happier, and make your crew more productive.

4:30 pm The Conference Concludes

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Farm Tour

Join us for the 2018 Georgia Agritourism Farm Tour sponsored by the Center of Innovation for Agribusiness on Monday, March 5 and is included in the 2018 GA Agritourism Annual Conference registration.

The Farm Tour will depart from Unicoi State Park Lodge at 8:00 am and return no later than 6:00 pm. No other cars are allowed to follow the buses.

We have a wonderful farm tour lined up to kick off our 2018 conference. Our state agritourism team has representatives from the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Georgia Grown, Georgia Department of Economic Development Tourism Division, and the Center of Innovation for Agribusiness. This committee has identified the following fun stops that you will be sure to learn a lot from.

Our GAA tour will start at Mountain Fresh Creamery and Glo-Crest Dairy in Clermont, Georgia. Scott Glover is a 4th generation dairy farmer. He and his wife Jennifer started the farm in 2000 and built up a herd of high quality Holsteins that produce award winning milk bottled and used for their ice cream and butter. While there, they will be able to see milking at the dairy and then the processing at the creamery. They have an ice cream shop and sell milk at several retail locations.

The second stop of the day will take us to Sweet Acre Farms and Winery in Alto. Sweet Acre Farms Winery is a small husband and wife run farm located in the beautiful foothills of the Northeast Georgia mountains. After growing blackberries and keeping bees for some time, they have turned their u-pick farm into Hall County's first winery. They specialize in fruit, or "country wines," that are reminiscent of those our southern families used to make.

The next farm will be Jaemor Farms in Alto. The Echols family has been farming the 500-acre property for more than 100 years. Jaemor’s main roadside market has been open for 36 years. What was originally a stopping landmark for travelers purchasing Georgia peaches is now one of the largest roadside markets across the country specializing in a variety of homegrown produce. The market also includes homemade jams, jellies, ice cream, baked items and boiled peanuts. The farm offer activities for all ages including an annual eight-acre corn maze, farm tours and field trips. We will have lunch here in the barn.

After lunch, the group will head to Hillside Orchards Farm in Lakemont. The Mitcham’s are not only one of the largest manufacturers of jams and jellies, they also run a multi-faceted agritourism operation. They have a farm market, you pick, corn maze, petting zoo, gem mine, hayrides and much more. Three generations of the family work on the farm and keep in running and moving forward.

Our final farm tour destination is a unique one, Hardman Farm in Sautee Nacoochee. Hardman Farm is the latest state park in Georgia. The 173-acre farm has quite a history and was last owned by a former Georgia Governor. The property has many treasures: The gazebo topped Indian mound, Italianate home, dairy barn, horse barn, pastures and spring house. The state is adding more of the agricultural history to the site and hopes that the group can suggest and inspire even more ideas to add more working farm aspects to the site.

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Sponsorship and Exhibiting

2018 GA Agritourism Annual Conference SponsorsInterested in Sponsoring or Exhibiting? Click HERE.

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Silent Auction

Donate goods, events, or services for the Silent Auction. It’s fun for everyone to browse and what better way to showcase your agritourism operation?! For details, click HERE

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Lodge where you learn and network! The 2018 Agritourism Annual Conference will take place at the beautiful

Unicoi State Park and Lodge
1788 Highway 356
Helen, GA 30545
(706) 878-2201
Click HERE for directions
Ask for the Georgia Agritourism Annual Conference rate of $99

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GAA Member Slideshow

There is never enough time at the Conference to hear from every operator or see what’s new or really great on their farm. We invite you to participate in a slide show to play during the March 5th dinner. The goal is to share ideas of something you have learned or done on your farm in the past few years. For example, Mercier Orchards hosts a kids cookie baking class before the holidays - how fun!

Submit photos and the following information to Debbie Alexander ( by Friday, February 23:
1) name of the idea/activity/event,
2) one or two photos of the idea/activity/event, and
3) three bullet points describing the event.

A few other examples:

  • New bakery item for your market and why you chose to offer it
  • New display of your special item that you grow - from apples to meats to zucchini
  • New flavor of ice cream
  • Christmas wreaths made from scraps of the trees you have for sale at the holidays
  • New way to prune blackberries or lay plastic for u-pick crops
  • Wine tasting event
  • Field trip station rotation
  • Over night stay on the farm
  • Best way to network with your local news station

The sky is the limit. We hope you'll participate and network with others to learn more about what each of us are doing at our operations. 

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