GCC Hosts First Agri-Tourism Symposium in the Region

Keynote Speaker Sophie Winter, Ph.D.

Seven million acres or 23 percent of New York State is used by 36,000 farms producing an array of products. Agriculture production is a $4.7 billion industry in New York State. Meanwhile, 239 million tourists visited the Empire State last year generating more than $100 billion in direct spending. Bringing these two behemoth industries together is known as agri-tourism, and many areas of the world are learning how to leverage the unique qualities and strengths of each to create a niche of new tourism.

Genesee Community College invites the community the College’s Batavia Campus on Thursday, October 26, 2017 from 12:30 pm to 3:00 pm to participate in region’s first ever Agri-Tourism Symposium! 

Agri-tourism is as unique as the farms, products produced, geography, topography and even the farming families themselves.  In Italy, agri-tourismo was officially established in 1985, India in 2004, and in the United States, agri-tourism offers a literal gold mine of opportunity. Agritourists enjoy a wide range of activities from picking fruits and vegetables to tasting honey, learning about wine, beer and cheese making or riding horses or winding through a corn maze, and even helping produce hand-crafted gift items.

To celebrate this exciting industry in our community, Amy Slusser, professor of GCC’s Tourism and Hospitality Management Program is coordinating the first annual Agri-Tourism Symposium to not only increase awareness about this growing industry, but to help enable participants through knowledge sharing and networking.

“Our region of New York State offers some of the best agri-tourism opportunities in the nation,” Professor Slusser said. “From our dairies for cheese and yogurt, while not forgetting milk, butter and of course, ice cream, to the many acres of fruits and vegetables. And, New York wineries are now competing with great success against both European and Californian varietals. Now is the time for agri-tourism in the upstate New York.”

At 12:30 pm, keynote speaker, Sophie Winter, Ph.D. will discuss “Evolution, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Agri-Tourism.” A native of Southern France, Dr. Winter earned her master’s degree in Agricultural Business from Illinois State University and her Ph.D. in Business Administration from Arizona State University.  Currently, she teaches agricultural marketing, sales, retail management and entrepreneurship at SUNY Cobleskill. Winter was awarded Dissertation of the Year by the International Food Marketing Institute in 2015.

Immediately following Dr. Winter’s address, the following three panelists will offer a close-up review of the challenges and successes of agri-tourism in our region of New York State:

  • Barbara Dominesey, general manager of Hidden Valley Animal Adventures in Varysburg, NY;
  • Chad Heeb, director of marketing of New York Chips and Marquart Farms in Gainesville, NY; and
  • Betty Burley, owner of East Hill Creamery in Perry, NY.

Participants will hear how these organizations got started, highlights of their challenges and the roles they see their businesses playing in the community. An all-important questions and answers period for members of the audience to inquire on the topics at the forefront of their minds is also scheduled.

The program will conclude at the “Meet, Greet and Eat Reception” featuring local foods and products, including an ice cream flavor selected by GCC students and created by Yummies, the well-known (and loved) homemade ice cream shop located at 12 Center Street in Warsaw, NY. Representatives from over 15 local apple farms, breweries, cider mills and more will also be attending.

Perhaps the best part of Agri-Tourism Symposium is that the event in entirely FREE, sponsored in part by Farm Credit Northeast AgEnhancement. It is also the second event in GCC’s “Year of Entrepreneurship” series which is featuring a different speaker, event or opportunity all focused on entrepreneurship during each complete month of the 2017-2018 academic year.

Social media mavens are encouraged to use the following  #agritourism and tag @sunyGCC in their posts and pictures to share and exchange the fun as GCC explores Agri-Tourism in the Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming County region.

For more information, contact Professor of Tourism and Hospitality Management Amy Slusser at (585) 343-0055 ext. 6332, or via email: alslusser@genesee.edu.