Consuming Niagara's Agricultural Landscapes: A Regional Assessment of the Constraints and Opportunities for Developing a Sustainable Agritourism Destination
Farmers in the Niagara Region have experienced worsening economic conditions in recent years due largely to globalization-induced competition and other exogenous forces. The subsequent agricultural restructuring process has prompted farmers to adopt agritourism as a means of sustaining their small family-owned operations because its activities generate additional income by inviting visitors to consume value-added products and/or services associated with the rural idyll. The number of agritourism operations continues to increase throughout this geographic area over time. Efforts to include agritourism in policy and planning documents are also visible in the Provincial Policy Statement, the Regional Municipality of Niagara’s Official Plan, and various municipal Official Plans. As such, this thesis draws on the perspectives of agritourism operators, government officials (i.e., planners and economic development operators), and representatives from not-for-profit organizations as a means to explore agritourism as a strategy of rural economic development in the Niagara Region. The analysis identifies stakeholders’ use of place-based development, entrepreneurs’ knowledge of product, high quality standards, and the presence of strategic partnerships as industry-related opportunities. Several constraints are also made known; however, they are found to affect agritourism operations that are not part of the wine and grape growing faction of industry on a larger scale. Proactive planning policies, more effective marketing strategies, workshop-based education, and better communication between stakeholders might enhance the future development of the agritourism industry. Overall, it is argued that agritourism is a viable rural economic development strategy for the Niagara Region to pursue, especially if operations are based in wine and grape growing.