2018 Common Ground Summit

Agritourism in Georgia
Session Four - 2 PM - Athena E

Habersham Vineyards

Habersham Vineyards

Session Description and Noteworthy Project Aspects:
Known as an agricultural giant, Georgia's climate and varied geography provide for the diverse crops and unique landscapes that support this sector of our economy. This panel will focus on the role that agriculture can have in supporting the greater economies of nearby communities through increased tourism, as well as the partnerships, collaborations, marketing and outreach needed be successful in this endeavor.



Jerry Connell - Co-founder & President of Georgia Grown Trails 37 & 41 and Chairman of the Adel-Cook County Tourism Authority & the Adel Downtown Development Authority.

Jerry is a co-founder and current president of two of Georgia’s award winning agritourism driving trails. Mr. Connell is credited with having created the original agritourism trail prototype now used as a model for all Georgia Grown Trails throughout the state. In addition to his work with agritourism, he is currently Chairman of the Adel-Cook County Tourism Authority and the Downtown Development Authority of Adel, GA.  He is the former President and CEO of the Adel-Cook County Chamber of Commerce and a graduate of the University of Georgia.  Prior to his work in tourism and economic development, Jerry was President of Project 70 Digital, an advertising and media production company in Atlanta, GA.  Jerry is married and has four grown children and seven grandchildren.   

Rita Suiter - Marketing & Training Cooridor, Mercier Ochards

Rita Suiter is a Clarksville, TN native and presently resides in Copperhill, Tennesse, just over the state line.  She is a Certified Customer Service Specialist, a Certified Tourism Professional, a Certified Nursing Assistant and a graduate of Disney’s School on Quality Service.   She serves as an instructor at the Southeast Tourism Society’s Annual Marketing College in Dahlonega, GA.  Rita has presented customer service and motivational workshops in 17 states all through word of mouth.  She enjoys baking, traveling and spending quality time with her Grandson, Eli.

Emily DeFoor - General Manager, Habersham Vineyards & Winery and President, Georgia Wine Producers

Emily DeFoor is the General Manager of Habersham Vineyards & Winery and the Nacoochee Village Development in Helen, GA.  Ms. DeFoor has worked in various capacities in the Nacoochee Village over the last 15 years from Retail Management, Accounting, Marketing, and Project Management.  She became GM in January 2014. Prior to her position with Nacoochee Village and Habersham Winery, Ms. DeFoor worked in retail management, residential construction, and trucking logistics.  Ms. DeFoor is also Vice President of the North Georgia Winegrowers, Member of the Unicoi Wine Trail Board, and is on the Board of Directors of the Alpine Helen/White County Convention and Visitors Bureau. She is a native North Georgian who enjoys making pottery and spending time outdoors with her husband and two sons. 



Cindy Norton Agritourism Manager, Georgia Department of Agriculture. 

Cindy Norton manages the Agritourism signage program with the Department of Transportation, assists with the development of Agritourism sites, and works with the Marketing Department to implement the Georgia Grown program. She has also worked with the creation of Agritourism Trails across the state and in the promotion of agriculture education and local food products. Previously, she worked for the Department of Human Resources for 24 years and Cooperative Extension for 3 years. She has a degree in Speech Communication and Psychology from the University of Georgia.


If you have any questions regarding this panel, please email Georgia Conservancy Stewardship Communications Director Brian Foster bfoster@gaconservancy.org