4/8/2014 6:00 AM
By Michael Short Delmarva Correspondent
DOVER, Del. — A national agritourism association could soon become a reality.
Martha Glass told the Delaware Agritourism Association at its annual dinner March 26 that the formation of NAPA, the National Agritourism Professionals Association, is in the planning stages.
Glass is the chairwoman and CEO of the fledgling group. She formerly worked for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Glass told the Delaware group that a list of 250 prospective members includes people from seven Canadian provinces and every state in America. Such a group could lobby for agritourism interests and help farmers navigate often tricky areas such as zoning, liability, risk assessment, taxes and insurance, she said.
“Don’t mess with the farmers. Leave them alone . . . They are saving our land. They are providing us with food,” she said.
Glass joked that without farmers, we would all be “cold, hungry and naked.”
Turning more serious, she said that it’s important that farmers have an advocate to help them navigate tricky areas. It’s equally important that policymakers realize that sometimes farmers need exemptions because it’s a unique profession with special needs.
Glass told the group that Delaware is doing it correctly. She noted that Delaware has a statewide agritourism association and also made special note of the fact that a number of tourism officials and Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee attended the meeting. That kind of support is not always universal, she said.
Glass urged the farmers in the audience to make their farm whatever they desire.
“Grow your farm the way you want . . . It’s your farm. It’s your story,” she said.
She urged them to head off problems before they start. That could mean calling legislators, building relationships with officials and working with regulations. Challenges include managing regulations, dealing with the answers you may not like, asking the right questions and smiling when the doorbell rings.
Glass also said people in agritourism should not be afraid to charge their visitors and customers money. She said farmers often ask questions such as, “Shouldn’t I charge less for my strawberries than Safeway?”
“No, yours are better,” she said.
Glass said farmers need to remember that people come to their farms because of the experience they can get and the quality they can find.
“They come because they can’t get it anywhere else,” she said.
She drew laughs when she said a new farmer needs “an attorney, an accountant and maybe your spouse.”
Glass also urged farmers to be willing to work together because partnering with friends and other businesses will increase everybody’s income.
“Each farm is unique . . . No two corn mazes are ever the same,” she said. “Don’t worry about competition.”
For more information about NAPA, go to Facebook or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The organization’s website is still under construction.
For more information about the Delaware Agritourism Association, contact email@example.com.