LAWSONVILLE, NC – The fourth annual Foothills Farm Festival took place at Robert Knight’s farm here in Stokes County recently. About 2,000 people attended.
Knight, the fifth generation of his family to work the farm, first hosted the event in 2020 as way to commemorate the recent passing of his grandfather.
Since then, the event has grown and become a real agritourism success, appealing both to members of the local ag community as well as members of the larger community.
If you’re considering an agritourism event of this type, a quick review of what Knight did well at his event may prove useful for your planning:
- Coordinate with local law enforcement authorities. Members of the local sheriff’s office provided traffic control on the road adjacent to the event.
- Provide ample parking. If you want to have a big crowd, be prepared for it.
- Offer activities for children. Events for children at the Foothills Farm Festival included a sack race, wagon rides and a corn pool. The initial music program was an opportunity for students ages 8 – 12 to learn how to play instruments like fiddle, banjo and mandolin.
- Provide interesting vendors. A large number of vendors participated in the event, selling items including local artwork, handspun woolen socks, candles and more.
- Keep the bellies full. The food offerings began in the morning with a biscuit-making event, continued throughout the day at a number of food trucks (ice cream was popular in the afternoon) and concluded with a country-style evening meal.
- Help visitors stay organized. Staffers for the event wore green shirts with the identifier “Farm Team” on the back. The parking lot had stakes and ribbons to create aisles. A map of the event was available on the back of the printed schedule for the day.
- Keep the adults interested. At the Foothills Farm Festival, there were demonstrations of horse-drawn plowing, sledding harvested tobacco by horse, an old-fashioned corn picker and a tractor parade. Locals were invited to enter their own tractors in the parade.
- Reference the history of your area. Given that Stokes County historically was a major tobacco producing area, having tobacco picking and tobacco tying demonstrations made sense for this event. There may be some other kind of activity you could highlight to spotlight the cultural and agricultural history of your area.
- Emphasize the interactive. Apple butter and molasses making provided a source of interest at the event, as they do at many fall farm days. The music stage had six different musical acts perform, on the hour, from noon until 5 p.m. What would work for you?
- Partner with others. The Foothills Farm Festival had a stable of sponsors which supported the event. Those sponsors were recognized in a variety of ways, including with signs on the hay wagons.
- It should go without saying, but provide plenty of restroom access.
- Have good weather. For that, there’s no guarantee. But you can reference historical rainfall patterns. (And a little prayer doesn’t hurt either!)
If you’re interested in staging an agritourism event at your farm, visit some farm events on your own to see what’s successful and what inspires you.
by Karl H. Kazaks