Agritourism’s promise for small farms: Extension’s Trevor Lane earns PhD

Lane in mortar cap and gown, holding his degree.
Trevor Lane, Director of WSU Ferry County Extension, has earned his doctorate degree in education.

Washington is home to thousands of small and mid-sized farms. Nationally, the U.S. is losing these farms, but agritourism—events like pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and haunted barns—can bring in thousands of dollars in extra revenue, helping small farms and ranches survive and thrive.

Trevor Lane, Director of WSU Ferry County Extension, earned his doctorate degree in education this spring from the University of Southern California (USC) by researching how tourism can support small farms and communities.

After achieving core competencies in scholarship and academics, he submitted a proposal for research in food systems and agritourism, which he successfully defended. His dissertation is titled, “The Promising Practice of Agritourism for Small Farms.”

Agritourism draws anglers, hunters, artisans, foodies and local-food lovers to farms for recreation, overnight stays, educational activities, and more.

“As mills, mines and logging declined, agritourism has helped promote our rural lifestyle,” Lane said. “It’s a great way to educate people about where their food comes from, diversify farm revenues and add value to local economies.”

Lane’s degree gives him new academic tools for his work in Extension, helping him more deeply engage in science and research.

“It’s led to more collaborative grant funding, an increase with integrated and interdisciplinary research, and more publishing opportunities.” he said. “Fast forward a few years, and we could see food systems, community festivals, hay rides, pumpkin patches, dude ranches, bed-and-breakfasts, U-Pick events, and farmstands, to name just a few agritourism opportunities, as part of Extension programming around the state and especially in our rural communities.”

As director of Ferry County Extension, Lane helps farmers, families and businesses in northeastern Washington access land-grant resources. For example, he leads workshops and commissions videos that help growers learn how to engage in this profitable practice, while expanding public knowledge of the importance of farming.

Learn more about Ferry County Extension here.