Apr 7, 2007
Agritourism Reaches New Heights at Long Acre Farms

Pilots set their global positioning coordinates to a latitude of 77° 18 feet 45 inches and a longitude of 43° 6 feet 45 inches when they and their passengers want a fun farm experience.

Visitors to Long Acre Farms in Macedon, N.Y., fly in from all parts of New York state and even from around the country, said Joan Allen, who is responsible for the agritourism aspect of the farm. She said customers have been flying in ever since she and her husband, Doug, opened a market at their 550-acre farm, which has produce including sweet corn, snap beans and pumpkins.

Allen said a runway has always existed on the farm because her parents and brother are pilots. She said the runway was opened to visitors because she figured it would be more convenient for customers who didn’t want to travel for hours in a car.

“More of the day is spent at the farm then,” she said.

Customers who don’t have the ability to fly in can have the experience through hang gliding – a recent addition to the farm’s activities.

Allen also recently started a local hang gliding club.

“It gives us a different market of people to tap into,” she said.

Visitors who are new flyers can get towed up with a certified tandem instructor for $120. Experienced hang gliders, who are club members, can get tows for $20. In-air photos also can be purchased for $20.

If customers have a fear of flying, there are many other activities for them on the farm, Allen said.

“There is something for everyone here,” she said.

Beginning in July, customers can navigate their way through a 5-acre corn maze. About 20,000 people come just for the maze, she said, which costs $5 or $8 depending on age.

This year’s theme was “Take Me Out to the Cornfield – Celebrate Baseball.” Allen said the maze drew in many of the same people who go to baseball games, including their target markets: families and teenagers.

The corn maze also is a hit for corporate functions because it can incorporate teambuilding activities.

“We try to find out what the group manager is trying to work on and tailor their visit to our farm around that,” Allen said.

Mazegoers pick up puzzle pieces from mailboxes at 12 different locations in the maze. Each piece has 1/12 of the puzzle that guides them through.

Companies including Kodak, Paychecks and Xerox have taken advantage of the teambuilding activities at Long Acre Farms.

The corn maze isn’t appropriate for young children and some visitors aren’t interested in it, so Allen has added the Back 40 activity area for people of all ages to enjoy. That area includes a climbing wall, trike track, mini-maze, straw jump, giant slingshot and slide.

Senior citizens, who normally come to the farm to spend time with their grandchildren, can shop or browse through the market and sit down at a number of nice places, such as benches and picnic tables to watch their grandchildren play.

Allen said her family has been trying to add a new activity every year to keep their customers coming back.

“It’s a guessing game for them (customers) to think about in the winter,” she said, adding that her family makes an effort to acknowledge all age groups when brainstorming.

The key to keeping customers coming back every year – and sometimes multiple times a year – is focusing on customer service, Allen said. She said part of customer service means having adequate parking for cars and planes alike, places for customers to eat and good signage that directs them around the farm. It also includes making sure customers don’t have to wait in long lines, she said.

Allen trains her employees, many of whom are teenagers, how to serve customers.

In order to provide all the customers with a great farm experience, the extended family comes to help out on the busy weekends. Family members, including Allen’s three daughters, her brother and nieces and nephews, are delegated duties that normally Allen, Doug and Allen’s mother, Charleen, do alone.

If everyone has a good experience they will come back and, by word of mouth, draw in new customers, Allen said. She also advertises with local print, radio and TV and sends newsletters to local community members.

Being a member of organizations such as the local chamber of commerce, Greater Rochester Visitors Association and Wayne County Tourism also has gained the farm visibility.

And belonging to the New York State Direct Marketing Association and North American Direct Marketing Association has helped Allen find new ways to remain innovative and draw in and retain customers.

We will do whatever we can to help make a visit to Long Acre Farms a family tradition for our customers, Allen said.

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