Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Community Development and Applied Economics

First Advisor

David Conner


Over the last 20 years, small- and medium-sized farm owners are increasingly interested in participating in agritourism and direct sales in order to boost income, provide family employment, and educate the public about agriculture, among other reasons. A growing body of research has focused on agritourism from the provider perspective, but more research is needed in order to identify supports and barriers for agritourism operators. In order to address this gap, we first investigated how operators themselves define success, before studying the attributes that are associated with success in agritourism. While prior research acknowledges the strong influence of non-economic factors on agritourism operator motivations, academic literature tends to focus on economic goals and benefits of engagement. More research is needed to better understand the nuance and breadth of non-economic motivations underlying agritourism operator decisions. In addition, research on agritourism in the US tends to be at the state level, which raises questions about overall national trends and inter-study comparability. In response, both qualitative and quantitative methods were used to define how agritourism operators measure success, measure to what degree they are successful in achieving stated goals, and analyze the factors that contribute to or hinder success. In the first article, we analyzed 24 transcripts from semi-structured interviews with small- and medium-sized farm owners engaged in agritourism across the US in order to better understand operator motivations. We used Allport’s “contact hypothesis” to contextualize how agritourism helps operators meet stated goals. Results suggest that, consistent with previous literature, non-monetary motivations are a high priority for farmers engaged in agritourism. In particular, motivations related to community engagement/leadership and quality-of-life emerged as forceful and reoccurring themes. Although Allport’s contact hypothesis holds some important explanatory power in understanding agritourism operators’ community-related goals, increased inter-group contact also has the potential to create new conflicts between farmers and neighbors related to tourism.

In the second article, using results from a national survey, we identified five goals that operators reported they were the least successful in achieving and analyzed the farm characteristics that were associated with perceptions of success. We organized independent variables into two general categories: farm characteristics and operator characteristics. Farm characteristics were further subdivided into agricultural attributes, geographic attributes and agritourism attributes. We hypothesized that, based on previous literature, location, gender and types of experiences offered would have significant associations with perceived success in meeting agritourism goals. Results from our ordinal logit regressions showed that offering on-farm sales and offering accommodations and lodging have strong positive relationships with perceived success. Results also highlighted the importance of gender when strategizing about goal achievement. Policy aimed at supporting operators should attempt to provide maximum flexibility in terms of options for their farms by reducing regulations and zoning restrictions.

Finally, this thesis concludes with a summary of findings and questions for future research. Agritourism operators and their businesses exist at a multidimensional intersection of two robust industries, agriculture and tourism. Despite definitional and ontological challenges, agritourism research continues to capture and synthesize operator experiences in order to help operators achieve success. Findings from this thesis contribute to this developing field of research and have significant implications for practitioners and researchers alike.



Number of Pages

111 p.