Agricultural producer attitudes toward agri-tourism in Miami-Dade County, Florida

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Agricultural producer attitudes toward agri-tourism in Miami-Dade County, Florida
Series Title:
FAMRC Industry Report 2-1
Stevens, Thomas J.
Degner, Robert L.
Morgan, Kimberly L.
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
Florida Agricultural Market Research Center
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Copyright Date:

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University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location:
University of Florida
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Copyright Board of Trustees of the University of Florida


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Agricultural Producer Attitudes Toward Agri-tourism
in Miami-Dade County, Florida

FAMRC Industry Report 2-1
October 2002

Thomas J. Stevens
Robert L. Degner
Kimberly L. Morgan

Florida Agricultural Market Research Center
Food and Resource Economics Department
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida

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Agricultural Producer Attitudes Toward Agri-tourism
in Miami-Dade County, Florida

FAMRC Industry Report 2-1
October 2002

Thomas J. Stevens
Robert L. Degner
Kimberly L. Morgan

Florida Agricultural Market Research Center
Food and Resource Economics Department
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida

Miami-Dade County, Florida attracts millions of domestic and foreign visitors
annually. The County also hosts a large and dynamic agricultural industry. Despite this
proximity of tourists and agriculture, only a limited number of organizations in the area
provide agri-tourist opportunities. In a survey of the County's agricultural community,
producers were asked about the likelihood of their participation in a cooperative agri-
tourism program and the benefits and risks they perceived from doing so. Of the 274
respondents to this question, 54.7 percent indicated they were "not at all likely" to
participate in such a program. Vegetable and nursery producers showed the least interest,
with 65.6 percent and 57.3 percent respectively indicating they were "not at all likely" to
participate, while higher percentages of fruit and aquacultural operations indicated they
would "very likely" participate (30.7 and 27.4 respectively). These response differences
among the four operation types were not, however, found to be statistically significant.
When participation responses from large and small operations of all types were
compared, it was found that larger operations were statistically less likely to participate in
an agri-tourism program.
Respondents' perceived benefits and risks of agri-tourism reflected their overall
reluctance to engage in such activities. Almost 49 percent of responses indicated that a
cooperative agri-tourism program would provided no or few benefits. The most
frequently cited risk was liability (42 percent). Other risks that were repeatedly cited
included added costs, phytosanitary issues, and operational seasonality. Overall, 24 more
risks were listed by respondents than benefits. Of the respondents that did list benefits,
increasing consumer awareness was cited most frequently. Other benefits included
increased sales, revenues and profits. While the majority of producers in Miami-Dade
County have serious reservations about engaging in agri-tourist activities, the
supplemental income from such an endeavor may be attractive to some types of smaller


The Florida Agricultural Market Research Center is a service of the Food and Resource
Economics Department. Its purpose is to provide timely, applied research on current and
emerging marketing problems affecting Florida's agricultural and marine industries. A
basic goal of the Center seeks to provide marketing research and related information to
producer organizations, trade associations, and governmental agencies concerned with
improving and expanding markets for Florida's agricultural and marine producers.

Client organizations are required to pay direct costs associated with their research
projects. Such costs include labor for personnel and telephone interviewing, mail surveys,
travel, and computer analyses. Professional time and support is provided to organized
producer groups at no charge by IFAS.

Professional agricultural economists with specialized training and experience in
marketing participate in every Center project. Cooperating personnel from other IFAS
units are also involved whenever specialized technical assistance is needed.

Dr. Robert L. Degner, Director
Florida Agricultural Market Research Center
P.O. Box 110240
1083 McCarty Hall
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida 32611-0240
(352) 392-1871 (Voice)
(352) 392-1886 (Fax)

Agricultural Producer Attitudes Toward Agri-tourism
in Miami-Dade County, Florida

Thomas J. Stevens, Robert L. Degner and Kimberly L. Morgan

This report presents the findings of a survey on the willingness of agricultural
producers in Miami-Dade County, Florida to participate in a cooperative agri-tourism
program. It evaluates and discusses the benefits and risks that producers perceived about
diversifying their enterprises to include such activities.

Miami-Dade County's desirable location and climate, in combination with its
abundant resort amenities, attract millions of domestic and foreign visitors to the area
annually. In 2001, there were over 10.5 million overnight visitors to the area, half of
which were from foreign countries (Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau,

2002) 2. The County is also unique among other major U.S. tourist destinations in that it
hosts a large and dynamic agricultural industry that produces a wide variety of tropical
fruits and vegetables.

Eco-tourism and agri-tourism are rapidly growing industries in some areas of the
United States. In many circumstances, with reasonable accommodations, entrepreneurial
growers can increase consumer awareness, promote their agricultural products and even
generate direct sales in conjunction with their commercial operations. In addition to
fostering better public relations, these activities can also increase profitability.

Despite the apparent opportunities and benefits for agriculture to exploit its
proximity to the area's tourism, only a limited numbers of organizations and businesses
provide agri-tourism type opportunities in the Miami-Dade area. Some of the participants
include: Burr's Berry Farm, Fairchild Tropical Gardens (who sponsor the International
Mango Festival), Knaus Berry Farms, the Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition,
Orchid Jungle, the Redland Fruit and Spice Park (which sponsors the Redland Farm and

Garden Show and the Redland International Orchid Festival), Robert's is Here fruit stand,
and the Southern Florida Tropical Growers, Inc. (who sponsor the Tropical Agricultural
Fiesta). Among these organizations there is little coordination or information sharing.
While the Miami-Dade County Agricultural Extension Service is an important
educational resource for agriculture and related issues in the area, it is not organized to
promote commercial agri-tourism.

An opportunity to explore producer attitudes regarding agri-tourism came about
when a future land-use study of Miami-Dade County was commissioned by the Florida
Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to the University of Florida in 2000

(Degner et al., 2002) Part of this study involved a comprehensive survey effort to elicit
opinions and ideas from the agricultural community regarding infrastructure and policy
issues that impacted area farms and agribusinesses. One section of the survey was
devoted to polling respondents about the likelihood of their participating in a cooperative
agri-tourism program and the benefits and risks they perceived from doing so. Over
2,800 written questionnaires were mailed to private sector individuals and organizations
in the County during the winter of 2001. A total of 333 responses were received.

Survey participants were asked whether they were likely to participate in a
cooperative agri-tourism program that would bring visitors to their operations for tours
and retail sales. A semantic-differential response format was used to classify their
response with three choices: "Very likely", "Somewhat likely", and "Not at all likely".
Producers were then asked, in an open-ended format, what benefits and risks, if any, an
agri-tourism program would pose for their operation. The responses to each of these
questions are discussed below.

Likelihood of Participation
Producer semantic-differential responses to their likely participation in an agri-
tourism program are presented by operation type in Table 1. From left to right, the

columns contain the number of completed questionnaires for each operation type, the
number of participants that responded to the question, followed by the percent selecting
one of the three responses.

Table 1. Likelihood of Miami-Dade County agricultural producers to participate in

Participation in Agri-tourism
Response Completed Agri-tourism "Very "Some what "Not at All
Surveys Responses Likely" Likely" Likely"
Type of Operation number number percent percent percent
Fruit 125 114 30.7 19.3 50I.0
Vegetables 47 32 12.5 21.9 65.6
Nurrse 150 117 18.8 23.9 57.3
Aquaculture 11 11 27.3 27.3 45.5
Totals weighted
average percentages 333 274 23.- 21.9 54.7

Of the 333 questionnaires returned, 274 respondents completed the question on
participation in agri-tourism. With the exception of aquaculture, 50 percent or more of
respondents in each of the operation types indicated they were unlikely to participate in a
cooperative agri-tourism program. Vegetable producers had the lowest response rate to
this issue (32 out of 47 respondents, or 68 percent) and were also the least interested in
agri-tourism, with 65.6 percent indicating they were "not at all likely" to participate in
such a program. After vegetable producers, nursery operations were the least likely to
embrace agri-tourism, with 57.3 percent indicating they were "not at all likely" to
participate. Fruit and aquaculture operations were the most favorably disposed toward
agri-tourism with 30.7 and 27.3 percent (respectively) indicating they would "very likely"
participate in such a program.

A Chi-square test was performed to determine whether semantic-differential
responses between the four types of operations were statistically different. This test, with
4 degrees of freedom, had a probability value 0.126, which means there would be a 12.6

percent chance of being wrong if it were concluded that responses were different between
operation types. This indicates that while there are some differences in responses among
fruit, vegetable, and nursery operations (aquaculture responses were not included in the
test because of the small number of respondents of this type), these differences were not
great enough to be considered statistically significant.

Data on the size of respondents' operations were also requested in the survey. It
seems plausible that smaller operations may be more interested in diversifying their
operations and taking advantage of possible direct retail-sales opportunities associated
with agri-tourism, while larger operations would seem more likely to structure their
marketing efforts toward high-volume wholesale channels. Larger agricultural operations
may also perceive a greater liability risk from agri-tourism activities (deeper pockets)
than relatively small operations. To evaluate whether operation size influenced
producers' willingness to engage in agri-tourism, survey respondents were classified as
either small or large based on the number of acres in their operation. Allowances were
made for the type of operation in this classification. Vegetable operations with 100 acres
or more were considered large, otherwise they were classified as small. For fruit
operations, the breakpoint between small and large was set at 20 acres, and for nursery
operations it was set at 10 acres. In Miami-Dade County, vegetable operations typically
use land more extensively than fruit, nursery and aquaculture enterprises.

The response numbers and percentages for small and large operations of each
operation type, and all types combined, are presented in Table 2. Information on acreage
was provided by 239 of the 274 respondents who completed the agri-tourism
participation question. It appears that small operations are more favorably disposed to
agri-tourism. More than twice the proportion of all types of small operations (25.8
percent) were "very likely" to participate in a cooperative agri-tourism program,
compared to all types of large operations (11.8 percent). Within specific types of
operations, perhaps the greatest difference occurred between large and small nurseries.
Over 21 percent of small nursery operations indicated that they were "very likely" to
participate in an agri-tourism program, compared to less than six percent of large
nurseries. Similar but less dramatic differences are seen between large and small fruit

growers, but equal proportions of large and small vegetable growers were "not at all
likely" to participate in an agri-tourism program.

Table 2. Comparison of Likelihood of participation between large and small

operations in Miami-Dade County

Participation Participation Participation
Response "Not at All Likely" "Somewhat Likely" "Very Likely" Total
Size and Type number percent number percent number percent number
Small Fruit 38 46.90o 17 21.01o 26 32.10o 81
Small Vegetable 7 63.6% 3 27.3% 1 9.1% 11
Small Nursery 38 53.500 18 25 4o0 15 21.10o 71
Total Small 83 50.9% 38 23.3% 42 25.8% 163

Large Fruit 10 61.30o 5 16.1'o 7 22.6'0o 31
Large Vegetable 7 63.6% 4 36.4% 0 0.0% 11
Large Nurser 24 70.6Oo0 23.580 2 5.90 34
otal Large 50 65.8% 17 22.4% 9 11.8% 76

A chi-square test with 2 degrees of freedom for different responses
operations of all types was equal to 6.79 and a probability 0.034.

rates between large and small

Chi-square tests were again performed to see if these differences were statistically
significant. None of the tests for response differences between large and small operations
of a particular type were found to be statistically significant, although the probability
value of the test on large and small nursery operations (0.11) was very close to the 10
percent threshold. When the chi-square test was performed for response differences
between all types of large and small operations, however, it was found to be highly
significant. With 2 degrees of freedom, this chi-square value was 6.79, and had a
probability value of 0.034. Thus a statistically significant difference in the acceptability
of agri-tourism is found to occur between large and small operations in the County.

Perceived Benefits and Risks
Responses to the open-ended requests for perceived benefits and risks of agri-
tourism were reviewed and categorized by the general type of characteristic cited. The
results of this categorization are shown below in Tables 3 and 4. Because of the greater
variety of responses, the results from this part of the survey were not broken out by
operation type. Overall, more risks were perceived than benefits. Six percent fewer
participants provided responses to agri-tourism's benefits, compared to its risks, and 24
more risks were listed by respondents than benefits.

The types of responses in Tables 3 and 4 are ranked in order of frequency cited.
Almost 49 percent of the producers indicated that there were "None" or "Few" benefits to
agri-tourism (Table 3). In many cases, this was just a complementary affirmation of the
participant's responses to agri-tourism's risks. Increasing consumer awareness or
familiarity about the product and industry was the most frequently (34.6 percent) cited
benefit of agri-tourism. Twenty-two percent of respondents indicated that agri-tourism
could increase sales, revenues or profits to their organization. There were a variety of
other benefits cited, but the vast majority fell in these first two categories.

Table 3. Perceived benefits of participating in a cooperative agri-tourism program
by agricultural producers in Miami-Dade County, Florida (2001).

Type of Perceived Benefit Number Percent a
No or fev\ benefits 93 48.7'o
Increase product or industry awareness 66 34.6%
Increase sales or profits 42 2.0,
Other benefits 11 5.8%
Total Responses 212 I 11. 1%
percentages are based on 191 observations (respondents).
b.percentages sum to more than 100 because there were 212 responses from 191 respondents.
percentages sum to more than 100 because there were 212 responses from 191 respondents.

Table 4. Perceived risks of participating in a cooperative agri-tourism program by
agricultural producers in Miami-Dade County, Florida (2001).

Type of Perceived Risk Number Percent a
Liability 85 42.300
Added costs or reduced productivity 58 28.9%
None 57 28.4 o
Exposure to insects/disease 7 3.5%
Seasonallitt 5 02.
Other 24 11.9%
Total Responses 236 117.50- b
a. percentages are based on 204 observations (respondents).
b. percentages sum to more than 100 because there were 236 responses from 204 respondents.

There were a greater variety of perceived risks that discourage producers from
participating in agri-tourism. Many of these hinge on the very nature of agricultural
production itself. The most frequently cited risk was liability, which was listed by over
42 percent of those responding to the question. Clearly, trip and fall accidents, exposure
to pesticides and powerful industrial equipment pose real and present risks to employees
and visitors alike in many agricultural production settings. To reduce or prevent these
types of accidents would require significant investments in safety equipment and labor
for some types of agricultural operations. Indeed, the second most frequently listed risk
for agri-tourism was the costs of additional labor and amenities necessary to
accommodate visitors. Included within this category of responses were those indicating
that agri-tourism would interfere with regular production activities on the site.

A significant minority of respondents saw no particular risks to engaging in agri-
tourism activities. Over 28 percent of producers responding to the question on perceived
risks by indicating that there were "None". Of course, this is in part a reflection of those
operations that listed numerous benefits to agri-tourism in other half of the question.

Other issues that tend to discourage producers from engaging in agri-tourism
activities included pytosanitary concerns and the seasonality of production and harvesting

activities. Many producers believe that allowing large numbers of people to access and
tour their operations would significantly increase the potential for exposing crops or
groves to harmful diseases and insects. The recent devastation to the area's lime industry
from citrus canker is still fresh in the minds of many producers.

Other producers expressed concerns about the seasonality of their activities.
Unlike some of the notable agri-tourism industries such as the Napa Valley wine country
in California or the Vermont maple syrup industry, agricultural products grown in
Miami-Dade County are seasonal and highly perishable. Conscquciilly there are months
during the year when there are no crops in the fields or mature fruit in groves to purchase
or harvest. There are also certain phases of the production process where it would be
very inconvenient or dangerous for tourists to be present on the farm.

Although Miami-Dade County would appear to have great potential for agri-
tourism, currently only a handful of organizations or business in the area are engaged in
providing these services. A survey of agricultural producers in the area found that many
have serious concerns about the feasibility of agri-tourism for their operations. Most of
these concerns were related to the nature of the agricultural production practices
commonly used in the area. The widespread use of chemicals and powerful mechanical
equipment makes it problematic to bring untrained visitors or tourists on to many farm
work environments. Pytosanitary issues were also a major concern of area producers.
Growers feared that bringing tourist onto their farms would increase the exposure of their
crops and groves to potentially destructive pests and diseases. Survey respondents also
pointed out that agriculture in Miami-Dade County is highly seasonal. Consequently,
there are months during the year when few activities or products are available for tourists
to purchase or experience. In comparing survey responses between large and small
operations, it was found that small operations were significantly more inclined to
participate in a cooperative agri-tourism program.

Currently, there is little in the way of public programs or coordinating
organizations to promote the demand or supply of agri-tourism opportunities in Miami-
Dade County. The formation of a coalition of enterprises that are interested and willing

to participate in a coordinated effort to provide agri-tourism experiences to area visitors
year-round is recommended. An advisory agri-tourism work-group or agri-tourism
coordinator could be established by the state or county to help provide information and
logistical support for enterprises wishing to explore this opportunity. This would help
insure that year-round tourism opportunities are available. An effective and dynamic
agri-tourism program could significantly enhance agricultural sales in the area,
particularly for smaller area producers. Such a program would also create additional jobs
in the County to provide these tour services. With over ten million visitors already
coming to the area each year, a $20 sale to just five percent of these visitors would
generate more than $10 million in new revenues to the agriculture industry annually.


1. The authors are post-doctorial associate, professor, and coordinator of economic
analysis, Department of Food and Resource Economics, Institute of Food and
Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville.

2. Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, "Greater Miami Overnight
Visitors, January December 2001",

3. Degner, Robert L., Thomas J. Stevens and Kimberly L. Morgan, "Miami-Dade
County Agricultural Land Retention Study: Final Report (Appendix D)." Industry
Report No. 2, Florida Agricultural Market Research Center, Institute of Food and
Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, October 2002.

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