North Texas Daily

University announces agritourism course

University announces agritourism course

University announces agritourism course
November 23
16:03 2022

The College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism will soon offer a course focused on agritourism, a growing industry that allows agricultural operations to generate more income through tourists.

The course, set to be offered starting in summer 2024, focuses on the agritourism industry which includes farmers and those in the hospitality industry. Income can be generated through a variety of methods, including tours on farms and sales of produce at farmers markets, said Birendra KC, an associate professor working on the upcoming course. KC is designing the course with assistant professor Xingyi Zhang.

“Agritourism helps diversify the income sources for farmers and preserves the rural landscapes and cultural heritage at the same time,” KC said. “If you deep-dive into agritourism, it has so much potential to contribute toward sustainable development goals.”

Funding for the course comes from a United States Department of Agriculture grant, which provides the university with $245,000 to create the course. These funds come as part of a larger effort by the USDA to promote educational opportunities in agricultural at Hispanic-serving institutions, with the organization investing $14 million nationwide.

The course will cover different aspects of agritourism with a foundation in sustainability. KC said the sustainable foundation should allow students to better understand and apply the topics discussed.

“The current curriculum in the college and the department does not cover any aspect of agritourism, even though it is an emerging industry with a potential to be a major contributor to the [rural] economy, at the least,” KC said. “With this course, it will not only generate the knowledge of agritourism among our hospitality and tourism students but also make connection[s] to different hospitality and tourism concentrations that currently exist.”

The course will be a 2000-level course offered to students  in the College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism.

“We will also provide incentives to undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds to take this course, as well as to participate in project-based learning opportunities,” KC said.

Agritourism is a quickly growing sector of the agricultural and hospitality industries due to the array of ways agritourism can manifest income. National revenue generated from agritourism has “tripled from 2002 and 2017,” according to a press release.

As agritourism becomes more popular across the U.S., some agricultural producers are engaging directly with consumers at events such as farmers markets. The Brown Thumb is a business that grows and sells locally produced plants in Denton. Bethany Weston, a vendor working for The Brown Thumb at the Denton Community Market, said she could see benefits to engaging with agritourism.

“A lot of times [customers will] get into conversations about plants,” Weston said. “Then, I get to learn a little bit about the agriculture of where they are from, and then they also get to learn about the agriculture here.”

Another business operating at the Denton Community Market is Brushy Creek Farm, a sustainable family farm that sells produce. Kylie Brinson and Tilghman Parr are vendors for Brushy Creek Farm at the farmers’ market. Brinson said she supports engaging with agritourism and said she views it as an opportunity to educate people about local produce.

“We have had a lot of people talking about like, ‘Oh, I grew up here, out of state, out of [the] city,” Brinson said. “And now they want to learn more about the things that grow here versus where they grew up.”

The agritourism course will be a five-week online course and will offer students the opportunity to hear from professionals around Texas.

Featured Image: The door to The College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism office is propped open on Nov. 22, 2022. Photo by John Anderson

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John Eberhart

John Eberhart

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