Farm and Food Tourism: An Appropriate Economic Strategy for Appalachia?

Farm and food tourism, including craft beverage tourism, are often touted as sustainable, place-based, economic development strategies that can improve farm incomes, help to protect agricultural lands, bring much needed revenue to rural economies, and reinforce local foodways and identities. In some regions, farm and food tourism may also be quite successful at linking rural and urban constituencies and in promoting regional identity. However, there are risks and challenges with any tourism development strategy. Increased costs associated with new or changing enterprises, potential dilution of local identities, and concerns about “authentic” representations are among the risks and challenges that come with tourism strategies for economic development; these may also be prevalent in farm and food tourism. The paper utilizes a case study analysis to ask: is farm and food tourism an appropriate economic development strategy for Appalachia? Case studies will be used to demonstrate the potential successes, risks and challenges associated with farm and food tourism in the Appalachian context. The paper concludes with an assessment of the conditions under which farm and food tourism may provide a sustainable, place-based tourism strategy that also serves to bring regional identity into focus.