It might be a strange time to do a show about tourism but what better time to help farmers think about adding additional income steams to their farms. I think as we move through this pandemic people will be looking at visiting places closer to home especially farms Today’s show features Dr. Patrick Holladay, Professor of Tourism Management at Troy University and President of the Coastal Georgia Travel Association.
Brennan Washington: I’ve been trying to keep to a weekly schedule’s been so hard with a lot of things that’s going on with this virus. But a lot of voices need to be heard from. Today, we’re going to hear from Dr. Patrick Haliday, a professor of agro tourism and a president with Georgia Coastal Agro Tourism Association.
Brennan Washington: And tourism may be a strange thing to be talking about this time of the year.
Brennan Washington: During during what we have going on.
Brennan Washington: But as many farmers are noticing, the landscape has been changing for in terms of sales and what we’re going to need to be able to do to survive in the future.
Brennan Washington: And adding a income streams just agritourism to your farm can be pretty important in the future.
So in terms of trying to get the show out on a more regular basis, I think I’m just going to go with nixing any commentary before the interviews, just going straight into the interviews and just stay in contact with the guys.
I hope everybody’s being safe, practicing social distancing and doing everything you need to do to get through this pandemic. So now his doctor, Patrick Haliday and agritourism.
Intro: Welcome to the Sustainable AG Rider podcast. A podcast bringing you News & views about sustainable agriculture from across the south eastern United States. Every show will feature insightful interviews and deep dives into sustainable agriculture topics with farmers, ranchers, land grant universities and local food system advocates. Now, here’s your host, Brennan Washington.
Brennan Washington: Welcome to Sustainable AG Rider podcast. I hope everybody is doing all right out there in the age of Covid. Man, I’ve been trying to keep to a weekly schedule. It’s been so hard with a lot of things that’s going on with this virus. But a lot of voices need to be heard from. Today, we’re going to hear from Dr. Patrick Holladay, a professor of agritourism and the president of the Georgia Coastal Agritourism Association. And tourism may be a strange thing to be talking about this time of the year. During what we have going on. But as many farmers are noticing, the landscape has been changing for in terms of sales and what we’re going to need to be able to do to survive in the future. And adding a income stream to just agritourism to your farm can be pretty important in the future. So in terms of trying to get the show out on a more regular basis, I think I’m just going to go with nixing any commentary before the interviews, just going straight into the interviews and just stay in contact with you guys. So I hope everybody’s being safe, practicing social distancing and doing everything you need to do to get through this pandemic. So now here’s Dr. Patrick Holladay and agritourism.
Brennan Washington: Welcome back to the Sustainable AG Rider Podcast. My guest today is Dr. Patrick Holladay assistant professor of tourism management at Troy University and president of the Georgia Coast Travel Association. How are you doing today, Patrick?
Patrick Holladay: I’m Great Brennan great. Great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Brennan Washington: Yeah, thanks. Thanks. We’ve picked an interesting time to do this, to cover this topic.
Intro: Yeah. Yeah, of course. I mean, I guess people know something about what they can do on farm visits one of these days.
Brennan Washington: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And seeing how we have the huge travel bans now. Yeah. It’s tough. Well, what I figure is it gives everybody time to sit down and plan what they want to do as far as agritourism on a farm, you know.
Patrick Holladay: Yeah. Yeah. Both for visitors and for farmers who are thinking about it or doing it. Mm hmm.
Brennan Washington: So, Patrick, what exactly is agritourism?
Patrick Holladay: So the short version is that it’s agricultural tourism. So we just took those two words and jammed them together. And the French, they call that a portmanteau. We’re not doing an SAT version today. Yeah. So agricultural tourism. So that’s when a farmer, a rancher, even aquaculture incorporates up site visits, farm visits into their operations.
Patrick Holladay: So they create some sort of tour. It can run the gamut. And the idea is to create an extra revenue stream, another way to make money that helps supplement farm incomes of other times. It’s it’s kind of a value added product.
Brennan Washington: Ok. OK. And this is not really a new concept, is it?. Been around for a while. I notice a lot of buzz around it now. But how how old is the actual concept of agritourism?
Patrick Holladay: Oh, you know, in time immemorial. I mean, people always visited farms. It’s it’s it has grown, though, and I’d say in the last 20 years, particularly the last 10 years. And it’s it’s it’s something that’s become part of just even sort of common language. More, more and more people just realized that you can go especially, you know, send a shoe. I don’t remember when, you know, Food Network started and Emerill was really big and all that stuff was maybe 20 years ago. And then even up to now, we’re talking about all the buzzwords with sustainable and organic and farm to table and local. And people are just really interested in where their food comes from these days.
Patrick Holladay: And so farm visits are extremely popular.
Brennan Washington: In your opinion, why should a farmer consider it looking at his farms for potential agritourism projects? I mean, what’s the benefit to a farmer? First of all.
Patrick Holladay: Well, so some of the benefits is you get to diversify your income by the very first thing that I ask any anybody, a farmer or rancher, somebody who may be doing aquaculture. You have crayfish or catfish ponds or whatever it may be. First of all, is that are you a people person? You’re not a people person. Don’t do it. Because because you not only have to have a farm, you have to have a visitor. Experience has to be good so that people will tell their friends and you come back and and that sort of thing. So you need to be a people person first and foremost. You also make sure that you have the enough people to do the job because we know that farming is 24/7, 365. And can you get away from your operation long enough or do you have somebody you have a family member. You have a wife? Cause I find a daughter who could do that. And are they a people person? So you need to diversify your income. You can increase your revenue without increasing your acreage. Use what you have. You can build new businesses using the resources part so you don’t have to make any new investments for us. There’s a couple of other things that maybe complement the economic side of it is that it’s a it’s a way to have agricultural education teach people about the heritage of your area or how different farming practices work. You get to be a steward of natural resources. And it’s a it’s a really great way. We know that the average age of a farmer in America right now is 59, 60. So it’s really a great way to have kids come out to the farm and educate them, get them interested in agriculture. And maybe that might be a career path. So when we have the next generation of farmers. So those are all different things to consider.
Brennan Washington: Ok. The interesting thing is, aside from the income, is the preservation of culture and cultural history. And if I’m not mistaken, you just wrote a book around. Just our listeners know you look located down in Georgia Plains, right?
Patrick Holladay: Yeah, I live. I live in Glynn County and say I live on St. Simons Island. And yeah, I just wrote a book on it’s called Gullah Geechee Heritage in the Golden Isles. Of course, the golden hours is the term we refer since violence. Jekyll Island places down here and Gullah Geechee are a group of people who were enslaved mainly from West Africa because of the rice production skills. You know, slavery is evil, but even more evil when particular groups of people were targeted because of their skills. But they knew the tides. They knew how to use the sun. I mean, the moon for flooding. They knew. They knew all the engineering skills for building rice cultivation. So they were brought here. And then after the civil war, the plantation owners and everybody else moved off of the islands. And so the.
Patrick Holladay: Gullah Geechee people, as you referred to, were pretty much left in isolation from slavery through the Civil War up until, you know, the early nineteen hundreds and people started becoming interested in islands, building bridges, things like that. So what happened was they created their own culture, their own language, their own systems of doing things. And it’s a really interesting, what we call them, indigenous culture, America that maybe a lot of people don’t know about. Right. Right. But the great agricultural traditions and great fishermen.
Brennan Washington: Yeah. It’s interesting. You know, one of the things about the Gullah geeky tradition is just the long history. They have fisheries. You know, guys like shrimpers and oystermen and that type of stuff. So let’s say I’m a farmer and a gardener. Yes, I am, actually. I want to investigate agritourism.
Brennan Washington: I’ve heard this term about tourism. What would I do to go looking about seeing if my operation is a viable for such a enterprise? And what are the things that need to be doing at startup? Look, I at least researching to see will be a viable enterprise for sure.
Patrick Holladay: Sure. And I just want to tell your to tell your listeners that I’m not just an academic. I grew up working on my grandfather’s 300 acre farm in central Tennessee, 20 years. He at Hereford Cattle was his main interest. And I actually have my own thirty two acre farm in South Carolina, where it’s mostly and a natural state right now, got about a half acre market garden. And I’m working on some ag tourism development myself.
Patrick Holladay: So I have some inside inside knowledge too. And not just books. Yeah. Yeah. What, what. What, what should you do if you want to think about or if you even are, you know, these are the things that you want. Well, the number one thing that I tell everybody is you need to write a business plan. There is no way to succeed without a plan. So what’s the old old adage? Just if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. And there there’s some really great resources. You know, small business development centers, the organization, the Small Business Administration has an arm of it called SCORE, which is retired business people who help folks free of charge by people to find a consultant or an academic. I write business plans for people are friend. I also like the University of Minnesota extension, has an online platform.
Patrick Holladay: It’s sort of a you type it and plug in all these pieces. And I will make the template kind of that the plan. Right. Plan AGP out A and you and E you. So University of Minnesota extension. So so what happens when you write a business plan is you actually figure out what your what’s your vision is. What do you want out of it? What is your service? What is your product? What is your resources? Who’s going to do the job? Figure out the different ways that you can make income from admission fees, sales, facility rentals. And it also starts some of the other questions like marketing, because, you know, if you build it, they will come is a joke.
Patrick Holladay: If you don’t market, you’re not going to get any money. It doesn’t matter how much you do. So another thing. So business plan is essential. Another thing that you want to do is get figure out what you’re what you’re ordinances and our need to get in touch with your local zoning because there’s all kinds of restrictions. You know, some farms have conservation easements, all these different sorts of things. Or you might decide, OK, I have space on my property. That would be really good for an event venue. Maybe do weddings or something like that, but you can’t build parking lots. So there’s there’s all kinds of different things like that. So, yeah. So business plan, marketing contractors, zoning, understand liability. The thing in Georgia, Georgia is, you know, I’m proud. People listen in different states, but here in Georgia, we’re really agritourism friendly. So liability, which I the only thing you have to really do is, you know, Farm Georgia Farm Bureau Solis’s.
Patrick Holladay: There’s these signs that you post all around that says they’re basically say, you know. When you come on to this property, you’re entering at your own risk. There’s a lot more text unsigned than that, but that’s basic is and if you post those around in visible spots and somebody comes on your property of their own volition to visit whatever twist their ankle or whatever it may be, you’re completely protected. So that’s a good thing. The one more thing that I talk about from a business side is if you do want to do agritourism on your farm ranch culture site and you’re thinking about risk management and that liability, you put up the signs and you think that you might want to consider also having a waiver if you’re doing an event. You can have people sign that. And then if you’re your farm, I hope a lot of these farms are created as LLCs to protect your assets. It’s a really good idea to talk to your attorney and create a separate LLC for your agritourism venture so that you have to separate it, because if you have all of your assets wrapped up into one thing, if something were to happen and somebody were successful in their litigation, they couldn’t get your farm assets. They could only use your agro tourism assets, which are usually not, you know, as as far as you know, although. So a separate LLC is a rather good idea. So those are some of my biggest points.
Brennan Washington: Yes. So what I hear you saying is, in addition to just doing just your standard business planning, you know, what the market is? You know, what type of price points can you get? You really need to be thinking a lot about your legal structure.
Patrick Holladay: And because there’s a lot of legal ramification involved, I guess having people come onto your farm here is there is like said, Jordan is very good about protecting the farmer. All of the laws and if anybody wants to write to me, I can send you the walls and things like that. They’re all written up into the from the Georgia legislature, specific agritourism, and they’re all very favorable. But you do need signs. You might want to do a waiver.
Patrick Holladay: You definitely want to know your your zoning and your licensing. And yeah, that’s separate. LLC is something really. Should think about pretty hard. Just to protect yourself.
Brennan Washington: Ok. So for the sake of our listeners, why don’t you talk about some of the interesting agritourism projects that you have seen, whether be here in Georgia or anywhere in the South?
Patrick Holladay: Sure, sure. Sure. It’s just it’s funny. This this morning I got an e-mail from Karen Lawrence, who is down in Albany, southwest Georgia, Project for Community Education. This region out there by saying we know that Doretti County and Albany are pretty hard hit right now with everything that’s going on. So one of the one of the ones that I just recently wrapped up earlier this year is just a couple of months was with Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education, which is they have their base in Albany, Georgia, and. It’s an offshoot of Shirley Sherrod. Mrs Sherrod from New Communities, who, if you studied civil rights and social justice as a charade, and her husband, Charles, were really active all through the years. And what was also true is that the USDA had systematic discrimination against people of color who were farmers for decades. And there was a there was a big lawsuit started in the late 90s, was is finished as it went all the way up to the Supreme Court of 2009 and the litigation the Supreme Court found in favour of all the black farmers.
Patrick Holladay: And so everybody who was part of that litigation and who could be tracked to have had discriminatory practices, lack of access to funds and resources, or lost their land, which was the case that unities got a big settlement, really big millions of dollars each. So the New Communities nonprofit group won a very big settlement. One of the things that they did is they bought a property that’s called Riza’s Aura. It’s a it’s an Albany areas and Darity County. It’s over sixteen hundred acres. It’s a former plantation. And it’s a really interesting you know, they talk about there that it’s really interesting that what was once a plantation with enslaved people is now owned by the ancestors of those people. So that was a really cool twist. But what they’re what they’re trying to do is, is the Southwest Georgia project is an extension. They work with socially managed farmers. They’re working on accessible, community oriented food systems, opportunities to help underserved farms and also sustainability and some social dimensions that we’ll see in agriculture. So what we and what they want to do is so they work with 14 counties in southwest Georgia. And so a lot of the socially disadvantaged farmers, you know, they have small landholdings. They’re getting by. But they wanted other ways to make income. So that’s where I got involved. I think you actually introduced me to some of them. I think that’s how it actually started. And so we started developing and agritourism plan. And so what I wrote for Southwest Georgia Project was was both a business plan, which I said was number one, and also a strategic plan, which is which is a three year plan for them and what they’re what they want to do.
Patrick Holladay: This resort place is just. Beautiful. Like I said, it’s sixteen hundred acres. It’s got Satsuma, orange, citrus groves. It’s got pecan groves. It’s got an 80 acre lake. They’ve built cabins on it. There’s a replica antebellum mansion, similar sort of style. You know, it’s I think it’s filled with 80s, but it looks like it. But it’s a huge place and it’s really would be good for bands and that sort of thing, though, because there’s so many farm. We visited three farms and talked about their readiness and they’re they’re going to be part of the pilot project. And we’re going to use the idea as like said, it’s still in its inception. We just kicked this off from the beginning here and now, all this covert stuff. But the idea is, is, you know, about a hub. Right. So if you think about Atlanta Airport, the biggest airport hub in the world, everything comes there. So it was the hub and spoke model. So everything comes there and then it shoots out. Or you can even think about a food hub, you know, so that’s everybody brings their products there and it’s a distribution center, that sense about it. So since resources are already completely visitor ready and there’s a big place and people can stay on it and all that tourists would come to resort to. And then from resource, they could learn about all the other farms that are participating in that program across these 14 counties have opportunity. So they that’s those are the spokes to all these places out there. Come to Resource Day, then go out and see somebody else’s farm, maybe somebody who has a farm practice that you’re really interested, vegetable farmer or maybe their ponds on their property that you can fish or bird watching.
Patrick Holladay: A quick aside. You know, we’re talking about different types of agritourism. One that I just recently started talking to the guy about. It’s an Alabama place called Joe Farm Cattle Farm, African-American owned. But the guy, the the son, he’s really into birding. And they have a lot of property. And it’s a cattle ranch. And so there’s birds everywhere because, you know, it’s just pasture and forest and things. What he did is he got in touch with his local chapter of the Audubon Society, which in Birmingham. And one day said, hey, you know what? I don’t like birding. Don’t you guys come out and see if this property is worthwhile for birds? So the chapter leadership came out to three guys and they loved it. It’s all kinds of stuff. And then so they put out a call to their chaptered and said, hey, we’re gonna do a birding tour on this date. And I’m like, 30, 40 people showed up when they did another one. And he had over a hundred people show up. So just let’s just you know, if you got some space, you know, one of the places I went to and in Albany, he had a great wetlands area on the side of his of his row crops. You know, I was doing kale and cabbage and all that kind of stuff. Then there was a little bag on the side, wetlands and forest, and he said he was building the trail. So that’s that’s one with the Southwest Georgia Project.
Brennan Washington: Yeah. And just just as an aside on that. Yeah. That’s an amazing story about Mr..
Brennan Washington: Mrs. Sherrod and and their work with the Pickford so settlement helping so many black farmers did. The thing that always strikes me about that story is that they actually lost a significant piece of property and they were working.
Brennan Washington: I think they said that they have they had almost missed a deadline, not remembering that they had farmers, because I don’t I hear some people complain about the for settlement was just a give away and stuff, but they actually did lose some significant land holdings. So it’s really nice to see it circle back and they were able to get that land back. And her family.
Patrick Holladay: Yeah, and it’s great what they’ve got going on there. And they’re, you know, two other things. They’re thinking about treat creating an agritourism trail next to a civil rights trail.
Now, the state of Georgia has some agritourism trails and some civil rights trails, but they wanted to maybe have some additions or some compliments so that as you traveled around because agritourism are agriculture excuse me, agriculture and civil rights are both pieces of heritage of heritage. Truly, you can actually do both of those things in time. Speaking of trails, so here’s another one that we got going on in the state. We all know about Georgia grown, which is the extension of the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the branding for products that are created in our state. So in state, we have Georgia grown trails, which are agritourism trails there on state highways. There’s four of them in the state. And the newest one is Georgia Grown Trails 17. If you remember the old highways, the old Coastal Highway 17 runs all the way down from the South Carolina border and Savannah down past St. Mary’s to Florida. And so that was a resolution. And Jeff Jones district House district. 167, he pushed that through, Elizabeth. And so the idea is with these tourism trails and if you are a farmer. So, again, the educational piece of this, if you’re a farmer and you want to start in agro tourism business, chances are you’re not terribly far from one of these agro tourism trails, like the example the Albany Highway 37 was the first one. And that goes right through a whole bunch of those properties. Right. The one for 17. The idea is to get people off of big and like Interstate 95, get people out to the rural areas, you know, where they can experience. They can buy. Maybe you stay in a bit. So talking about some different types of agri tourism business like you pick. So if you have a strawberry field or some clever apple, you can have people come and pick the fruit themselves is a great afternoon outing for the family. And as I tell farmers all the time, is that if you’re doing this, I mean, it’s great because you can give you can give them a gallon basket for ten dollars.
Patrick Holladay: They go pick their gallon of strawberries. There’s no way for someone to go on a straw for 10 others. So it’s it’s amazing. So you get a labor force and a crate doing this.
Patrick Holladay: You pick, you know, are you stay in a bed and breakfast or go to a farm store or you go fishing or hiking or birding or whatever. And it’s you know, the different types of businesses only depend on your own creativity and the resources that you have.
Patrick Holladay: And another just a quick aside, one thing. You know, when we were talking about do’s and don’ts, one thing that I tell everybody when you’re starting a business venture is don’t spend money.
Patrick Holladay: Don’t go get a loan. Don’t start using credit cards. Don’t ask friends and families for support or investors or anything. Just use what you have in Denver. Take for granted what’s your day to day work is, you know, because people actually like to come out and watch who they would like or come and. Learn something. Do a workshop. How do you how do you grow cut flowers or something like that?
Patrick Holladay: Just what are you doing right now? That doesn’t cost any money. Free, really, to push it out to the public. And don’t discount the help you can get from your Chamber of Commerce for marketing and social media. Marketing is fantastic. Get get. If you are wanting, you can get in touch with Georgia grown people. If you’re on Highway 17, I’m actually on that board of directors. The site. And I can help you with that. But there’s there’s so there’s the Web site is georgiagrowntrails.com. If you go to georgiagrowntrails.com. you can learn more about them and see the four different highways. So that’s another that’s another good, good resource.
Brennan Washington: So so the idea of a trail, these trails, Patrick, is that you have this stretch of road and all along it all these agritourism sites you could visit.
Brennan Washington: Is that the general principle?
Patrick Holladay: Yeah, absolutely. Oh, absolutely. And if you go to that Web site, you can go to one of the highways, 41 or 37 or wherever there’s a map. And on that map, there’s all little points that say this is so-and-so is farm and this is so-and-so is farmers. And they have the place where it is on the road so that you can if you’re a visitor, somebody who’s, you know, driving trip, we can plan it out and see exactly where, you know, learn something about farming, where it is and what their hours are, what you can do, all those different kinds.
Brennan Washington: So, Patrick, can you talk a little bit about you and I had these conversations, but you can’t. Can you talk a little bit about how important it is not only that you have your physical farm infrastructure here, but you have a story. And in that you can tell a story and build your brand and how important that is and what people should look at when they attempt to do that stuff.
Patrick Holladay: Yeah. Yeah. So this is, you know, tourism, agritourism. Tourism is. About the experience. Right. So if you think about your favorite trip that you took anywhere. You don’t necessarily remember all the minutia, little details. What was the name of that restaurant or what was the street wrong or was that building we’re looking at? You remember the feeling, right? You remember that feeling when you come home. You’re like, man, that was great. I had tell my friends, you’ve got to go to Patrick’s farm. There were some mice. You know, we learned we tasted some tasty things. You know, that kind of stuff. So, yeah, when you when you write a business plan and a marketing plan, which is a companion to that, there’s some components to it. So one of them is a vision statement, which is a really short. Our farm is dot, dot, dot. And it’s basically just the short version of what you want to tell the world about who you are. And then you also have a mission statement which is more fleshed out. This is what we do and this is how we do it. And this is why it’s important to us. And this is why we want to share it with you. And what those two things help you create are our brand image. So branding and image are great. We all know what the Nike swoop looks like. We all know about the red Coca-Cola, you know, all those different things. That’s that’s a that’s a brand. And we know about them because of logo. So you can even create a logo for your your farming or whatever components of your farmers are really important to you.
Patrick Holladay: So that’s that’s all part of branding is creating that image, that experience. Why do you want to do it? Right. So the number one thing for.
Patrick Holladay: That piece is don’t jump into this because you want to make money, right? Get into it because you have a story to tell. There’s some you’re passionate about. Why is your farm important? What is what practice are you doing on your farm that you want to educate people about? What do you want to share? And what’s the history of the place to you and what’s that story? You know, all that all of that is branding and imaging. It’s about passion, about getting a story, just like you said. Yeah.
Brennan Washington: Another thing you you and I have discussed about agritourism is this.
Brennan Washington: You do decide to establish some sort of agritourism at your farm or your whatever your business is that you should sort of stack like enterprises. And one thing you always you and I have talked about is debt. You should always have some value added products to sell. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Patrick Holladay: So. So, yeah. So. All right. So what are you doing on your farm. Maybe. Maybe you have maybe you have real crops or whatever, but you also have these. Right. So it’s good to have. It’s good to have pollinators around when you’re growing, when you’re growing vegetables. So maybe you are bottling that honey. You’ve already got a farm brand. Got a sticker on that. Honey, you know, this is this is the brand in Washington. Super, honey. You know, whatever. Well, when you’re when you’re doing agritourism, it’s a value added product unto itself. But what you want to do is that when people come there, you got to have a place for them to get their hands on it. So you might have a farm store you might just sell it to and you might just have it available. So anything that you’re that you’re. That you’re doing on your farm also need to have a way to get it into the visitor’s hands to get there. So that’s that’s yeah, that’s doubling down and stacking your revenue streams because you’re having visitors coming there. And they’re purchasing water products that you’re creating.
Brennan Washington: Ok. OK. Going back to those agricultural sales real quick. That’s not something that’s just unique to Georgia. They have them in other states.
Patrick Holladay: No, no, no, no, it’s not. No, they haven’t. They’re all over the place.
Patrick Holladay: And the thing is that it’s becoming even more they’re even more niches within it. So we have these four agro tourism trails. But also in Georgia, we have wine trails, the barbecue trails, beer and spirits trails. And these things are all over the place, all over the country. Right. And so you can if you are a producer, you can have and be a piece of an agro tourism trail, which you can also be a piece of, especially travel. All right. If if you raise hogs, how come you can’t be a component of barbecue catch or science? Or if you have a dairy and you create cheese, you can connect it to the lodge. OK. There’s there’s just you just have to be super creative about all this. But they exist, right? So nobody needs to go out and try to build any of these things. Research, talk to I tell people, you know, talk to people in your and your local. Institutions of higher education, there’s colleges and universities all over the place, and they have professors and tourism and agriculture and all sorts of things who are glad to help you out. Of course. Get to your extension agents and other organizations. Sarah, you guys do all kinds of great things, ups and that sort of really good example.
Brennan Washington: I think if you can talk about it a little bit, for someone trying to consider looking at a project and had to put the different components together is the project you’re about to work on in Puerto Rico, because that’s almost like from the ground up type of project that you’re doing. So would you mind talking about that project a little bit? What how it got started and what did you guys are attempting to do down there?
Patrick Holladay: You’re absolutely. So it’s Major Tourism Project. And in Puerto Rico, like you mentioned, there’s a in the central mountain regions, there’s a municipality, I guess sort of think about it, county. City, which is all called toward the water, was the central mountain region. So in September of 2017, we remember that Hurricane Maria came created some pretty significant devastation. It hit Puerto Rico full force. And what happened was the response for the communities and to auto after the hurricane. It was took 42 days for federal emergency help to get to those municipalities and what they also felt. Is that they had often been forgotten or left behind or marginalized out there because they’re pretty remote. And so what it did is it spurred them to self-reliance. They said, well, you know what? If we can’t get any FEMA help, we can’t get any Puerto Rican government.
Patrick Holladay: You know, the governor is not sending anybody out here. We’re going to do it all ourselves. So they banded together. There’s a there’s a nonprofit organization that’s called Casal, which is an acronym for Spanish, but roughly means community organization for socioeconomic development. Hell. And they banded together, put their pooled their local resources. They rebuilt the bridge and the aqueduct. They built a community health center, which it’s state of the art. It’s all solar power on wells. It’s got not just a clinic and a pharmacy, but it’s also got a dentist office and physical therapy rooms, all this kind of stuff. And they started a community gardens and agricultural education and the primary schools doing all this stuff and, you know, really fast compared to how it would have happened from an agency. And then so one of the other things is that they had coffee farms, you know, because it’s mountainous, coffee grows on slopes. And it was good region for that. It was a good climate for that. But a coffee plant takes seven years to reach maturity, to be harvested to get the being. So that’s a long time. So they’re thinking about new ways to rehabilitate these farms that had basically just been all destroyed from the hurricane. And one of the things was agritourism. So we started doing that. I was introduced to the project. A friend of mine went to grad school together at Clemson. Its name is Kenan Adams. He was the director of the Department and Interior’s cultural natural resources team. And now he’s the director of UK National Forest in Puerto Rico near San Juan. And he had posted the power of social media, actually, how you and I started talking about this, too. He posted something on his Facebook page about this community and how they were really interested in connecting agriculture, tourism and Brazilians. I was like, hey, I do all those things. So come on.
Patrick Holladay: And so I went down there just in the spring. So I’d only been like six months since the hurricane of twenty eighteen. And I started working with them. I wrote them a business plan. They had an old coffee roasting facility built in the 1960s that they’re thinking about turning into a visitor’s center. So they’re getting sort of this hub and spoke model, getting their farmers involved. And so we started that that strategic plan and business plan. And then a little time went by and our common friend, you know, I was there for. And I was working. I was down there for like a month, met all the farmers, did all the things, and then came back to the states. And our common friend, John Jackson, it runs Comfort Farms Milledgeville, which a lot of people might be familiar because they do so much work for veterans. He had been down there at in a completely different part of Puerto Rico connecting with some farmers. He posted something on Facebook and then you posted something to post and said, hey, I need to connect with some more farmers down there. Rico, I commented, I know some farmers down there.
Patrick Holladay: And so fast forward to next year. So this is twenty seven and twenty. Then you and I and a couple other colleagues and 2090 were down there and went, Eduardo did some of these community meetings, more visioning with the farmers, more talk about sustainable agriculture and how that connects to tourism, how that could be a factor for for this community, self-reliance and bringing incomes, education, food, secure and all those sorts of things.
Patrick Holladay: And it went really well, you know, with our Pablo Mendoza, Zaro at University of Puerto Rico’s, one of our partners Run Frontiers at Arizona State University, one of our partners. And when we got back, you suggested that we apply for the Sustainable Agriculture and Research, Research and Education Program Grant Sustainable Agricultural Grant.
Patrick Holladay: And so we did. And it was you know, you guys were awesome. There was it was a big process. Proposal. And it’s three hundred thousand dollars to continue this work for the next three years.
Patrick Holladay: Twenty twenty to twenty twenty three. And we want so. What happened from just me going down there to see if I couldn’t help out with some community people and just. Long story short is. They didn’t have any. They don’t have. They didn’t have any resources. They just had. And they’re they’re killing it. And, you know, I’ll tell you some stories just since we were there. It hasn’t hasn’t even been a year. So we have four cooperating farmers and the project in the pilot project, along with the non-profit group there and some other stakeholders in Puerto Rico Tourism Company, which is a state agency, and in University of Puerto Rico’s sustainable ag and extension folks. But our four cooperating farmers at the property, one has a pretty large acreage over hundreds. Does citrus. But he also has sheep, which were originally, you know, are keeping the grass down and sort of bush. But his he is absolutely crushing it. And lamb sales, right? Oh, wow. Yeah. So that was that was one. And then we had another guy who was taking breadfruit, wild breadfruit. He didn’t have to grow it because breadfruit grows everywhere. You can just take it. It’s community public property. But he added. He has this amazing sustainable operation for turning breadfruit into flour.
Patrick Holladay: So he and he’s really good at packaging and marketing, put together a really good team and they make bread, fruit, flour for waffles and pancakes. Waffle pancake mix is their main product. And since we were there, I mean, we just talk to him. And he was like, I got this idea. He’s in every supermarket in Puerto Rico. Oh, yeah. And he’s also been certified as a sustainable tourism site by the Puerto Rico tourism company. So he was the first farmer there. And that just basically is a certificate certification so that a visitor says, hey, I want to go to someplace. If you have the certification that it does, that you’re doing all of the best practices. And this is a place that people really want to others. So we have the sheep farmer and we have the breadfruit flower producer. The other guy, his he’s a viticultural with us. So he’s he’s really working outside of the box because that Puerto Rico first of all, you don’t really grow rapes. And he’s trying to all kinds of varietals and he’s also trying native fruits, you know, to try them and spirits. And he’s doing great. He’s he’s bottling wine now and he’s got a café on his property with a pizza oven. He does well. He grows out. We has pizza and wine tastings and has groups already coming. Toora I’ve seen pictures of.
Brennan Washington: Wow, that’s been all since we’ve been out there. Wow.
Patrick Holladay: Yeah. Najman here. So many of these people are driven and you know, that’s what it takes a lot of times for your listeners. Just, you know, if you have an idea, if you can get some support, try to run with it. They’re not investing there. Absolutely. People don’t trust the government. They’re not going after anybody’s money. They’re just. What do we got? How can we use it and really pushing it. So what this whole project is, is really about how agritourism can improve quality of life, create some socio economic development and impact agricultural sustainable. So all of this things with some really great farmers are pretty terrific and an area that was absolutely devastated. Maria.
Brennan Washington: So, yes, I think one of the crown jewels was just that amazing, unique coffee roasting plant they had there.
Patrick Holladay: Yeah, it’s too bad we don’t have a visual. But the thing is huge. I mean, I had to be ten or twelve thousand square feet. No, it was really big. Is a big metal building that until this until the 70s.
Patrick Holladay: Because like I said, this area was traditionally and coffee is a heritage food, Puerto Rico, some great coffee plants. So this was all coffee forms. There are 40. There are 40 coffee farms around that area. And since the hurricane knocked up some out. But there was also, you know, there’s there’s generational issues that we have everywhere. Younger people are moving away. So some of the farms are abandoned. And then the coffee roasting facility itself was not used anymore because the Department of AG in Puerto Rico, as one of their services, started roasting it for farmers selves. They had Department of AG at its own roasting facilities, which are more up to date and order. So people started taking their coffee. Yeah. Think is this if you want to in your mind’s eye, imagine a giant three. Every 12000 square foot melda building that you go inside of and all of the working pieces are still there. Know it’s very industrial looking. And the idea is to completely renovated, make it into a heritage museum where all this industrial innerworkings can be part of that interpretation. Tell the stories that people can see how coffee is roasted and have a cafe. There’s a big balcony on the outside. It was just a landing on the outside, turning them with a great view of the mountain. It would be a gorgeous, gorgeous facility for a business center and heritage.
Brennan Washington: Ok. So I’d like to turn back a little bit to this management for a few minutes, Patrick. So we’ve talked about the importance of getting it legal structure, right? Insurance? Yeah. Yeah, definitely. You can. You want to. We can get the signs from the Jurd in Georgia. Agriterrorism. But is it smart? Just not to depend on just that? Yeah. Yeah, definitely.
Patrick Holladay: You want to talk to you know, I hope your farmers and ranchers, everybody out there already has some form of insurance. So, you know, just go to the people that you’re already working with and talk to them about what you’re doing with agritourism. And you can get some extra insurance on that. There are some companies that do agritourism insurance by themselves looking to promote any particular want. But, yeah, talk to your insurance agent, tell them what you’re doing, and they should be able to give you some good advice on what you need to do.
Brennan Washington: Ok. So since you have you have your thumb really on the pulse of this type of work.
How bad is COVID affecting tourism destinations in Russia? Prognosis question. Yeah, surely it’s not billions. It’s trillions.
Patrick Holladay: Everybody’s under water. It’s going to take a long time for for, you know, hotels, restaurants, airlines, cruise ships, you name it. Everybody’s losing money and not a little bit of money, but 80, 90 percent of what they would normally make is gone. And I think that. And even after even, you know, when when all the countries start saying we think we have it under control or, you know, in a year there’s a vaccine and it’s safe, you can travel, go anywhere you want to. I still think there’s going to be a large portion of travel community who’s going to say no. But that is going to I think is going to take a while for people to start doing some of the some of the things that they were doing. And I actually think there might there is an opportunity, some fundamental shifts in just the way that people travel or consume experience. It may have some really long term effects on travel between states. International travel. People may be leery of going on going to airports like that. But yeah, I think the current estimate is 10 trillion dollars. Wow.
Brennan Washington: Wow. What’s the landscape down there in Glynn County?
Brennan Washington: Well, we we typically get two and a half million visitors year and twenty one and one point five billion dollars and tours where the third biggest destination after Atlanta and Savannah because of St. in Georgia doesn’t have a lot of beaches, but a couple of pieces. Tybee Island up in Savannah and St. Simons Island. So we’ll get 30000 visitors a day. So, yeah, it’s there’s there’s a lot of lot of lost. Everything shuttered. Know there’s no there’s no money coming in. It is it. Is it. I’ll have to look at it after the fact. No, we can crunch some numbers like that. But because of some some of Governor Kemp’s decision like him or don’t like, I’m going to get political. He has opened he did open the beaches at our local county commissioners, closed the beaches and they closed short term rentals. But then Kemp came around like a week later and said, now we’re going to open a mall. So what we still have here are not the same volume, but we do have out of town. I see them pretty regularly, you know, because they’re tired of being at home. They can get each house rental here and go to the beach. You can’t lounge on the beach. It’s exercise only, but people are still doing it. So now we’re we’re like everybody else just says.
A lot of businesses are going to close the same wherever, you know, the going back to your your statement about this may change the way people’s perception of travel changes.
You know, we’re seeing that with agriculture, too, now. I thought many farmers would be pulling their hair out because of loss of sales and potential loss of markets. But what?
An totally what we’re seeing as people now looking at work and I get local food and we kind of get my farm is and I think some of the stuff on hand happened with travel, you know, maybe just hop in a car and go somewhere.
And, yeah, I was going to. One other thing. One of the ideas that I had is like, we have to stop thinking globally for travel more regionally and anecdotally. Like, I I’m friends with tons of farmers. You know, I do a lot of agritourism stuff.
And they all had to shift, you know, from restaurants to directs, direct to consumer. And the ones that I’m talking to, the ones that I buy from, they are just they’re just. They’re like, wow, I could never have known that I would do this well. People are driving to the movie theater parking lot and you get chickens and stuff out of the back of the truck. I think it’s I think it’s great. I think it could be a really, really interesting fundamental shift in the way that food systems operate. And there’s maybe a change from food systems that are thinking about economic growth and everything about distribution instead. And then the last thought I meant to tie it to agro tourism. Is that it? What you know, there’s a dairy in and South Korea and it’s been selling for 75 years. And they never sold to a customer. They only sold. And then they just opened up their warehouse door. You know, the big side door.
So said, just pull up and we’ll sell right to you. And then they’re like, we never even thought to sell it to somebody. Seventy five years. And now they’re just selling tons of milk. And that was consciousness.
Like, people who just rely on supermarkets is changing because they’re going, oh, wait a minute, I got a whole bunch of people around me that are doing these things, meat sales to vegetable sales, to Hanie mushrooms, whatever it may be, soaps and things like that. And I think we can couple that hopefully as people are coming, becoming more aware with the local food system, their farmers and other food producers. But then if you want to start in agro tourism venture, because you’re developing this deeper relationship right now because of this crisis, it might be a good time to think about that. If you if you are a farmer right now who’s seen an increase in your direct consumer sales and you’re building these relationships, you might want to start to think that, hey, you know, six months down the road and hopefully everything’s all clear. I can be doing farm events, have visitors come, they can see what I actually do, and you can sell it right on your farm.
You know, I’ve sold out a truck now and, you know, like up here, you know, we’re up above Atlanta, but there’s a lot of little small farms.
What I’m also seeing is farmers who were sautter in their own little silos are starting to work together. But once again, we could start to share events or have farm to table type events and each of our farms and that type of stuff where even tours. I know I know some folks who have always finished in urban AG. You can even do a little urban ag circuit right through Atlanta or some of the other urban areas.
So, Patrick, I want to thank you. I know. I know. Killed you to take some time off making all that good food you’d be posting on Facebook. That’s it. What does this guy ever work? He’s always cook it so. Right. Good farmer friends.
But I want to tell it I want you to just take a few minutes to let people know how they could get in touch with you.
Sure. You know, we’re all we’re all sort of stay at home right now. So the best way to get a hold of me is my email. I check it probably 20 times a day. That’s p h o l l a d a y at Troy t are a y e you might work. No, I answer that pretty quick. You know, down the road, if somebody has a question, you know, think maybe things get back to normal while at my office phone is fine. One, two, two six two two five one one. But I’m not sure when I’ll be answering that again. But again email P holiday at Troy e t you.
I’ll be glad to answer any questions, help out or send a resource or whatever, and I’m free as you get a lot of calls and the name of your book again and how people can get it.
Yeah. Golly gee. Heritage and the Golden Isles gulling Ichi Heritage and the Golden Miles. Easiest ways they’ve got it on Amazon.
Ok, ok. OK. Well I want to I want to thank you. I want to have you on again to talk more about these issues and hopefully by the next time will you and I always talk on Facebook, but hopefully this cloud arise over us pretty soon and we can get back to seeing all these great little local tourist destinations and getting these experiences. So I want to thank you. I want to thank you for being a guest on the show today, Patrick. And hopefully well, I see you been get now, you know, you have been able to get to the beach and stuff.
Patrick Holladay: No, I actually avoid the beach, but I still I you know, I’m doing some things around, you know, getting some exercise parks and things like that.
Brennan Washington: Yeah. Yeah. I develop a cough and actually had to go to the doctor this morning. I’ve had a long, long standing, long issue. But I just got a little bit concerned about the cough. So they’re going to send me. So you just self quarantine now for your wife and I’ve got to go get a coffee test and about a week or so. So. But thanks for being on the show, man.
Patrick Holladay: I enjoyed it. Thank you for having me, Brian.
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