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The Urban-Rural Tourism Relationship: A Case of Suburban Farm Shops

Susan L. Slocum1[1] and Kynda R. Curtis2

1Tourism and Events Management, George Mason University, Science and Technology Campus, Manassas, Virginia, USA; 2College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA

Introduction

The urban-rural fringe, more commonly known as suburbia, has been recognized as ‘a unique product amalgam’ (Weaver, 2005, p. 23) that warrants more attention in the tourism literature. Characterized by increasing development of tourism infrastructure and visitation, Weaver (2005) defines suburban tourism as ‘exurban’ with distinctive characteristics inclusive of both urban and rural development patterns. The appeal of suburban development includes access to urban markets and relatively inexpensive land. Furthermore, many suburbs are well connected to urban transportation corridors that facilitate the ease of travel. Suburbs maintain the appeal of small towns offering ‘authentic’ or non-traditional tourist experiences (Maitland, 2008), where visitors immerse themselves in local culture. As tourism opportunities increase along the urban-rural fringe, interactions and dependencies in relation to tourism development are increasing (Nadin and Stead, 2000), and more research is needed to understand the nature of these relationships.

Farm shops provide a unique opportunity to explore the urban-rural relationship, especially when they occur within these fringe areas. Many farm shops are located on agricultural land, which has been traditionally classified as rural (Wilson, 2007), and most farm shop studies do not delineate between urban, suburban or rural operations. However, the popularity of sourcing local has increased market opportunities in high density living areas, such as the suburbs. As a result, farm shops are increasingly part of the urban-rural fringe development stream (Kikuchi et al., 2002) and thus deserve closer examination.

This chapter provides insight into the role of farm shops as tourism businesses that navigate the urban and rural environments, utilizing both to create a unique tourism product. Through seven semi-structured interviews with farm shop managers and owners in suburban England, this chapter attempts to highlight the operationalization of urban-rural fringe entrepreneurship, explain the role of farm shops in suburban development and explain how these environments are negotiated for tourism.

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