When it comes to charting Queensland’s path back to economic prosperity in a
post-pandemic world, one particular sector has been thrust into the spotlight.
Agritourism is no new phenomenon; however, with the drive for diversification in the agricultural industry stronger than ever, the Queensland Government’s $2 million boost to the sector was a welcome announcement.
The government’s campaign, Taste Farm Life, encourages travellers to get off the beaten track and experience an authentic rural or farming environment.
According to Skybury Coffee consultant, Paul Fagg, this initiative is just the “shot in the arm” the sector needs. “Taste Farm Life has been a long time coming, but it’s a good step forward,” Mr Fagg says.
“Anything that raises the profile of the wonderful produce and diversity we have here in Far North Queensland and builds that connection back into the visitor economy is fantastic.”
Skybury Coffee Plantation has established itself as one of the must-see destinations in the Far North, and this is due in no small part to the organisation’s understanding around agritourism.
“We first went into agritourism to drive local demand for our produce,” Mr Fagg says. “Bringing visitors close to the source and on-farm to demonstrate what we do has enabled us to move in different directions as we adapt and grow the business.
“Now, more than 50 per cent of people who buy Skybury roast coffee online have visited the coffee centre.
“Agritourism has also enabled us to drive demand for our papaya through the on-farm element and customer-facing segment.
“In addition to this, that product demand has helped us get creative and we now use our waste papaya to make jams and chutneys, and we recently collaborated with FNQ Spirits on a huge range of coffee and papaya liqueurs.”
And while Mr Fagg strongly believes in the potential of Far North Queensland’s agritourism sector, he feels the messaging and long-term strategy needs to be clearly conveyed to ensure its success.
“Our region has a fantastic food story to tell and we’ve got some real champions of local produce in the restaurant scene,” he says.
“At the moment there is a lot of commentary surrounding food miles and ethical standards, and we need to capitalise on this to celebrate the use of local produce and to articulate how that supports our regional growers.
“In turn, when it comes to the growers themselves, I think if you ask producers to set up a tourist facility just for the sake of it, it won’t be a success because it isn’t core business for them.
“However, if we closely link it to the produce they grow and show how they can drive demand for their product through the use of agritourism, I think the sector has a serious role to play well into the future.”
Eddy Nye from Rainforest Bounty and Chairman of Tourism Atherton Tablelands echoes Mr Fagg’s sentiments, stating that “consistency in the message” when it comes to agritourism is paramount to its success.
“Food tourism experiences have been a strong drawcard of visitation to the Atherton Tablelands for many years and is evident in the many campaigns targeting this market delivered by Tourism Atherton Tablelands, TTNQ and Tourism Australia,” Mr Nye says.
“Taste Farm Life will greatly assist us in leveraging our message and supporting the agritourism sector.”
A Deloitte Agritourism Bulletin highlights the noticeable shift towards the industry, stating that the increasing interest of consumers to know the provenance of their food is leading to strong growth in agritourism in regional areas.
“This growth and momentum is providing producers with new streams of income, direct relationships with consumers, and a greater slice of the value chain,” the bulletin states.
With the incredibly unique advantage of independently well-established agriculture and tourism sectors in Far North Queensland, the dynamism of their combination is undeniable and the potential to capitalise is immense.
Thanks to this long-awaited government support and an agricultural industry primed for diversification, it seems the opportunity to add new chapters to Far North Queensland’s agritourism story has well and truly arrived. Thanks to this long-awaited government support and an agricultural industry primed for diversification, it seems the opportunity to add new chapters to Far North Queensland’s agritourism story has well and truly arrived.