CHIPLEY - An upcoming workshop will guide farmers into success in the agritourism industry.

Washington County Tourist Development Council, in conjunction with Holmes and Jackson counties, and the UF/IFAS in Washington County, will host "Keeping Your Agritourism Farm Fresh" on Thursday, March 14 at the Washington County Agriculture Center, 1424 W. Jackson Ave. in Chipley.

The workshop registration fee is $20 and includes coffee and lunch. The event is open and not restricted to farmers only.

"Agritourism is not just big farms, it's small farms - it includes beekeepers, u-picks, production farms, dairies, it can be a variety of things," said TDC Director Heather Lopez. "It can even be barn weddings. It is all considered agritourism."

About 40 local farms have been invited to the event, which is geared towards developing and growing the agritourism industry in the tri-county area.

The workshop is the first in a series, with the next one scheduled for September.

The keynote speaker for the March 14 event is Rita Suiter, the Marketing and Training Coordinator for Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Suiter is also the owner of Five Star Customer Service Strategies, LLC and a professor at STS Marketing College in Dalhonega, Georgia.

Her presentation will focus on the first steps to jump starting farm-based agritourism and how to market your agritourism business.

Despite continued losses suffered from Hurricane Michael, particularly to forestry and farm lands in Washington County, Lopez is hopeful the workshop will play a role in recovery.

"We thought about canceling this workshop, but, then again, it's not a bad idea for them to come and get the information - and if they are not ready to do anything this year, they don't have to necessarily have to, but they can come and get the information and education so that when they are ready and done with clean up, they can pursue it," she said. "We didn't want to delay our plans because this is a good time for us to get information to our farmers so that they may be able to use it soon."

In 2017, the tourism and hospitality industries welcomed 118.5 million visitors, according to reports. And, according to an article by USA Today citing a recent Oxford Economics Research study, tourists spent $112 billion annually that same year - which is $36 billion more than in 2014. 

Even with the devastating blow of Hurricane Michael, headlines of a resilient tourism industry continue to surface.

The TDC has already pursuing a $50,000 Visit Florida Tourism Recovery Grant that will boost marketing for area attractions. Also funded by Visit Florida, the workshop is another piece of the puzzle and will move the local tourism from recovery to sustainability.

"We're going to continue this and be there every step of the way - for the farmers, that are truly interested in doing this, so that we can help them get it established and opened up on their farm," Lopez said. 

To register for the "Keeping Your Agritourism Farm Fresh," contact TDC Director Heather Lopez at 850-638-6013 or director@visitwcfla.com.