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US (NJ): Highway sign program promotes on farm activities
Working with the Department of Agriculture, the New Jersey Department of Transportation significantly revised its Tourist Oriented Destination Sign (TODS) program and tailored it to the needs of agritourism in an effort to help agricultural businesses build their base of regular customers and attract higher numbers of tourists.
“People love to visit local farms at this time of year for Jersey Fresh apples and pumpkin picking, hayrides and corn mazes,” said Secretary Fisher. “The ability to place a series of directional signs on roadways leading to the farm will go a long way toward helping consumers reach their desired destination and increasing business for farmers.”
The new regulations allow agritourism businesses to place signs on state highways up to 10 miles from their location, and the operations can be several turns off of those roadways if there is a chain of signage leading to the facilities. The businesses must be open a minimum of six hours each day, five days a week during their growing or operating season. There is an annual fee of $400 for each sign. The rules take into account that agritourism is usually a seasonal business, exempting them from certain provisions.
"New Jersey boasts beautiful rural landscapes that are dotted with farms, wineries and other tourist attractions just waiting to be discovered," said Deputy Commissioner Mrozek. "The Department's Tourist Oriented Directional Signing (TODS) program is a great way for agriculture-centered businesses and other rural establishments to raise their profile and attract customers."
NJDOT regulations define agritourism as “a style of tourism that offers activities that occur on a farm and are related to the agricultural use of the farm site.”
Agritourism is important to the state’s economy, generating $60 million annually and generates additional revenues in a wide range of other allied businesses, such as restaurants, construction companies and insurance providers. More than one-fifth of New Jersey farms offer some form of agritourism, with 43 percent of New Jersey’s total farmland associated with farm operations engaging in agritourism.
Kurt Alstede, owner of Alstede Farms, has participated in the TODS program for 12 years, placing signs on Route 206 directing drivers to turn onto Route 513 to reach his farm. The new regulations have allowed him to place additional signs on Route 10 in Randolph. He said the signs are especially helpful to him since his farm is on a road with four different names, none of which work in online mapping programs.
“The signs are one more piece of the puzzle that helps them get to their destination,” said Alstede. “They are more than directional signs; they also function as an advertisement.”
Alstede, a first generation farmer who grew up in Chester, founded Alstede Farms in 1982 and now cultivates 600 acres, where he grows apples, peaches, strawberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries, pumpkins, corn, tomatoes and many other vegetables. The farm includes a retail market and fall agritourism activities, including a corn maze, hay rides, pony rides, and pick-your-own pumpkins. The farm has more than 13,000 square feet of greenhouses where over 200 varieties of ornamental products are grown. Almost every acre of the farm is permanently preserved.
The Tourist Oriented Directional Signing program was started by NJDOT in 1999. It is designed to identify tourist-oriented facilities - such as farm stands, wineries, bed & breakfast inns and flea markets - that are not located on the state highway system. These signs alert motorists of the proximity of a destination and guide motorists from the highway to the destination. Strategically placed smaller trail-blazing signs help motorists navigate unfamiliar county roads. Since 1999, 440 businesses have participated in the TODS program, including many agritourism businesses such as Alstede Farms.
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