Agriculture News

May 17, 2016  

Purdue survey finds 'agritourists' have environmental concerns

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - While most agricultural tourists responding to a Purdue University survey indicated that agriculture is an important industry, those who said they had visited a livestock farm tended to have concerns about how animal feeding operations affect water quality in their county.

The results suggest that livestock producers who open their operations to "agritourists" will have a receptive audience but should be prepared to potentially address questions about environmental concerns, said Nicole Olynk Widmar, associate professor of agricultural economics and co-author of the study Exploring Agritourism Experience and Perceptions of Pork Production.

"We can safely say that agriculture professionals are increasingly aware of how the industry is perceived by the media and consumers," Widmar said. "We hope this data provides context for future studies that could help us better understand changing perceptions about agriculture and the demographics of people who participate in agritourism."

The study was designed to measure the demographics and attitudes of people who have visited a working farm or food production facility and compare those to people who have not visited an agricultural production operation.

Researchers conducted an online survey of 857 U.S. households from July 23 to Aug. 6, 2014. The survey was administered by the market research firm Lightspeed GMI and targeted to be representative of the overall U.S. adult population for age, gender, pre-tax income and region of residency.

Results showed 69 percent of respondents had visited a livestock operation - defined as a pig, dairy or horse farm. These respondents were more likely to agree with the statement, "I am supportive of the growth of livestock agriculture in my county," but also more likely to agree that, "I am concerned about impacts on water quality from livestock operations in my county."

"Just because you support something and believe it is important doesn't mean you won't ask critical questions," Widmar said. "There is some popular belief that consumers are taking a greater interest in food production. Our results seem to reinforce previous findings that the most engaged food consumers tend to be women in families with young children, and it seems that they are also more likely to be agritourists."

Widmar's co-authors were Ann M. Cummins, then-graduate research assistant in the Department of Agricultural Economics; Candace Croney, director of the Purdue Center for Animal Welfare Science; and Joan Fulton, professor of agricultural economics.

The study appeared in the April 2016 issue of the journal Agricultural Sciences. It is available at Funding was provided by Indiana Pork and the Indiana Soybean Alliance. The study was developed in cooperation with Fair Oaks Farms, Belstra Milling Co., Indiana Pork and the Indiana Soybean Alliance. 

Writer: Darrin Pack, 765-494-8415, 

Source: Nicole Olynk Widmar, 765-494-2567,


Exploring Agritourism Experience and Perceptions of Pork Production

Ann M. Cummins 1; Nicole J. Olynk Widmar 1; Candace C. Croney 2; Joan R. Fulton 1

1 Department of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47906, USA

2 College of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47906, USA


The interest of consumers in farming activities is evident and agricultural producers have responded to this increasing interest in a number of ways, including inviting visitors to farm operations through tourism or farm visits. Livestock industries, in particular, are interacting with the public in numerous ways, including via marketing channels for their products, interacting with community leaders and community members in regard to location siting and regulations, and inviting people onto their operations via agritourism. An improved understanding of who visits agricultural locations (particularly livestock operations) and consumers' perceptions about livestock agriculture is needed in order to begin to understand the possible relationships between on-farm experiences and consumers' perceptions. Thus, it is important to gain a deeper understanding in consumers' interests, including their level of concern for production process attributes, such as animal welfare, relative to product attributes like price and taste. This analysis investigates the demographics of consumers who have (and have not) visited various agritourism operations, studies differences in preferences for (and perceptions of) animal welfare relative to other pork attributes between consumers who have or have not visited a livestock operation, as well as amongst consumers with varying levels of involvement in household food production. Indeed the relationships explored are between having visited a livestock operation and the perceptions. This study found that 69% of participants had visited a livestock operation (pig farm, dairy farm, and/or horse farm) at some point. The majority of respondents agreed that agriculture was an important industry, yet, those who had visited livestock operations were more likely to note concerns about the impact of livestock operations on water quality in their county. 

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