Transportation Shuttle & Agri-Tour
There is an opportunity to develop tourism around the pre-existing agricultural infrastructure and cultural heritage of the region. Many agricultural regions have branded themselves based on their produce and there is the chance to create a circuit or network of businesses and groups that tie into the cultural history of agriculture in the County of Newell as well as its present and future.
The agri-tour shuttle will be a standalone business that provides transportation to various agri-tourism destinations. The farms will be separate tourism businesses in themselves, garnering revenue based on the sale of their products.
The result is a spinoff effect of economic development amongst complementary tourism businesses.
The popularity of the farm-to-table culture represents a wider opportunity to engage visitors to the region. The creation of an “agri-tourism circuit” would not only encourage longer trips to the area by visitors, but also incentivize the local community to provide innovative insights into their businesses.
Small-scale farms and businesses are able to participate by curating classic examples of “country-side” activities. Experiences such as hay-rides can be paired with seasonal offerings of picnics. Spring can see children and adults alike engage with baby animals, and experiences can even be guided by large-animal veterinarians.
Larger-scale productions can provide tours of facilities with different themes such as agricultural technology or a walk-through of the elements that guarantee an “organic” status.
For those who want a more fully immersive experience, overnight stays can be established in different tiers and themes. A “farm-to-table” experience could see a family waking up, working on the farm to gather various elements of their meal and helping throughout the day, and then finishing off with a dinner they have helped create. A “retreat-from-technology” experience could have a focus on the physical aspect of farm work, with deliberate shunning of internet connectivity in favor of outdoor activity.
Overnight field trips could have students camping by night and by day focusing on researching reports on various elements of the agricultural experiences they have.
Educational presentations can be integrated into food stands and farmers’ markets, providing a “drop-in” browsing style engagement with the culture of food production.
The region also has the opportunity to emphasize its long-term history, with contextualization of what the dinosaurs were thought to have eaten, along with the climate of the period and what the growing conditions and weather were like as opposed to modern-day history.
Crucial to the success of initiatives like these would be the development of an agri-tourism circuit. Groups or businesses could apply or be designated points of interest on a published map. There could be trail biking routes between certain destinations and a regular shuttle bus could make a rotation between larger destinations. The products from these businesses could also be included in special markets or gift shops, perhaps even with an appellation process.
The tourism office and hotels would carry these maps as well as booking information for the shuttle. The shuttle would permit accessibility both for more remote areas to participate as well as for those visitors with less mobility.
The main sites of the agri-tour will be locally owned farms on agricultural land. Many of these sites will likely already have the agricultural features necessary for this business venture.
However, these farms will need to alter their venues to be more receptive to tourism. This may involve building roads to improve accessibility and allow for shuttle service. This may also involve safety precautions regarding animals and health regulations related to livestock and food.
Additionally, many of these farms may need to build picnic or dining areas for the full agri-tour experience. Running water and electricity will not be necessary. However, an outhouse or portable toilet may be necessary if washroom facilities do not currently exist.
The shuttle itself will need capacity to carry a number of passengers. The vehicle will likely be a large van or a small bus. Since the shuttle service will visit tourism sites in the County, the vehicle may also need the capability to travel on gravel or dirt roads. This may limit the use of a bus shuttle. Alternatively, some roads to tourist destinations may need to be paved to allow for shuttle access.
The following checklist should be used when determining site eligibility:
- Check zoning
- Ensure proper permits are in place
- onfirm business can operate on the designated land
- Check environmental regulations and species protection
- Determine legal and insurance requirements
There is fairly universal appeal to creating an agri-tourism circuit in the region. Families, individuals and groups wanting to engage further with the origins of food will be inherently interested, and the possible tie-ins to the Dinosaur Provincial Park are strong. Curiosity about the lives of the dinosaurs, how they lived and ate, can be segued into learning about the various animals in the agricultural landscape. Educational groups that are already making the park a destination can increase the value of their trips by pairing the paleontological aspects of their visits with the current technology and processes around food production.
There are also opportunities to create or liaise with charitable programs that take urban youth out of the cities to experience agriculture, nature, and the scale of the land in Canada. Volunteer positions can be offered to agricultural science students to lead tours and set up exhibits in the summers or as part of agricultural-education research. The gathering of these activities and possibilities onto an agri-tourism map ensure the widest reach across visiting demographics.
Business expenses are estimated to be comprised of $25k for a minibus and $15k for gas and maintenance. An additional $10k is estimated for shed storage, including office space and overhead. A driver is estimated to fetch a wage rate of $15/hour for 8 hours/day and 3 days/week. A tour guide is estimated at $15/hour for 8 hours/day and 3 days/week.
The pricing for the agri-tour should be $40/person. It is assumed that 8 people will travel three days/week during the peak tourism season between May and October.