The Representations and Realities of Agritourism in Essex County, Ontario

Reid, Heather
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University of Guelph

Many Canadian rural regions’ character is changing rapidly following the simultaneous distancing of commodity production-oriented agriculture from communities and the growing expectations of amenity and consumption-driven uses of rural spaces. Agritourism is one strategy used by farms seeking an alternative to corporatization and intensification that capitalizes on these expectations allowing farms to remain within the agricultural sector. Considering this context, this research used a discourse analysis of marketing materials alongside interviews with agritourism providers and tourism organization representatives to understand and document the role of agritourism as a form of farm diversification and as a component of the place brand in Essex County, Ontario. This study highlights the differentiated uses of agritourism in the County brand in tandem with varying experiences and diversification pathways on the farm and winery. In particular, horizontal and vertical networking may play a key role in bridging the gap between brand representation and on-the-ground reality.

Agritourism, Rural development, Farm diversification, Essex County, Farm tourism, Place branding