Outdoor recreation workshop provides information for landowners

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(11/07/17) FARMERVILLE, La. — Agriculture producers heard about using agritourism as a way to manage their land for increased profit at a workshop Nov. 1 at the Edgewood Plantation in Farmerville.

The Managing Your Land for Outdoor Recreation workshop was sponsored by the LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Delta Adventures Inc. and Mississippi State University.

Our goal is to show landowners how to increase the value on their property by diversifying operations that include inviting people onto their land for supplemental income,” said Dora Ann Hatch, a consultant with Louisiana Delta Adventures.

AgCenter agritourism coordinator Bruce Garner explained agritourism is a business venture located on a working farm, ranch or other commercial agricultural or forest property.

“Finding a way to make money with something you already have is important,” Garner said. “Successful operations must have something to see, do and buy.”

Daryl Jones, coordinator of the Natural Resource Enterprises program at Mississippi State University provided participants with a wide range of options for managing property.

Many property owners with good timber, forestry and agricultural management have the resources for hunting leases as well as other enterprises, such as wildlife watching, paddling, horse trail riding, fishing and “agratainment” interests like music and cultural and family traditions, he said.

“As our urban areas grow, we have an asset in rural land,” Jones said.

A recent survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows 102 million people spend money on outdoor recreation in hunting, fishing and wildlife watching alone, spending $152 billion annually, he said.

Jones provided information on hunting leases and recommended diversification by species. He said landowners can make leases more attractive by maintaining defined access for hunting or observation areas, developing trail systems and adding hunting blinds, food plots, camping sites and lodging amenities like a fire pit, firewood, trash disposal and outhouses.

Jones warned against “cookie cutter” attempts to find a sample lease agreements on the internet. “This is not something to be taken lightly,” he said.

“Producers interested in pursuing agritourism may be afraid of potential liabilities, so we wanted to address agritourism law and how they can be protected,” Garner said

There are provisions under Louisiana law to become a certified agritourism operator. Once the process is completed and all requirements are met, they will have some protections, Garner said

Landowners who open their agricultural properties to the public at no charge receive some immunity for any liability under Louisiana recreational use statutes, said attorney Paul Spillers of Theus, Grisham, Davis and Leigh LLC.

National Wild Turkey Federation district biologist Betsy Dutoit offered land owners several options for private land management assistance through grants, seed programs and prescribed burn services.

Federation members can take advantage of three seed programs, including conservation seed, a seed subsidy cost share and a retail seed store through an agreement with Mossy Oak Biologic, she said.

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologist John Hanks reviewed state deer harvest numbers for the last five years, pointing out that many north Louisiana parishes are in the top 20 parishes for deer per harvested acre.

“If you are growing bigger deer or have older deer, they are worth more to hunters,” Hanks said. The trend in deer hunting in Louisiana has leaned to larger, older deer during the past 20 years, he said.

“Assistance starts with conservation planning, which is the foundation or road map to where you want to go with your property,” said Tim Landreneau, assistant state conservationist for easement programs with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Landreneau described farm bill programs as tools used to assist with the implementation of conservation plans and to provide financial assistance or incentives for resource protection through the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, Conservation Stewardship Program and the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program.

Jerry Antley, owner of Cedar Hill Game Call Company, operates 60 acres of timber land managed for wildlife. “If I didn’t make a penny off of timber, I would still maintain it for wildlife,” he said.

Louisiana Delta Adventures consultant Dora Ann Hatch and LSU AgCenter agritourism coordinator Bruce Garner, center, talk with landowner Jerry Antley following the Managing Your Land for Outdoor Recreation workshop held Nov. 1 in Farmerville. Photo by Karol Osborne/LSU AgCenter

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