Michigan’s Specialty Crop, Family Farm Enterprises in Agritourism Development — ASN Events

Michigan’s Specialty Crop, Family Farm Enterprises in Agritourism Development (15121)

Deborah Che 1 , Gregory Veeck 2 , Lucius Hallett, IV 2 , Ann Veeck 3
  1. School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Southern Cross University, Coolangatta, QLD, AUSTRALIA
  2. Department of Geography, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, USA
  3. Department of Marketing, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, USA

According to Getz et al. (2004), small, family businesses are the foundation of destination competitiveness since they provide, in numeric terms, most of the tourism and hospitality services, attractions, and outlets for visitor spending. In rural areas, farm-based family businesses provide such tourist services and supplemental farm income. Given the importance of farm-based family enterprises in rural tourism development in Michigan, this paper utilizes focus groups, interviews, and data from a survey of Michigan specialty crop producers involved with agritourism, value-adding and direct retail to investigate several key issues which affect business survival. These issues include the enterprises’ governance, professionalism in labour practices and marketing, owners’ motivations, and succession plans. The Michigan agritourism businesses involve partnerships shared among spouses and immediate and extended family members, such as siblings or parents and children. While the specialty crop farmers have shifted from a production, wholesale orientation to a retail and entertainment one in order to save the family farm, there is a bifurcation between operators holding lifestyle, autonomy, and stability orientations, and larger operators holding a growth orientation. The owners’ motivations as well as their succession plans have impacted staffing and investment decisions. Finally, this paper discusses the implications of these orientations characteristic of family businesses on the long-term survival and sustainability of Michigan’s specialty crop producers and Michigan agritourism development.