Posts Tagged: agritourism
To survive as a small-scale farmer, it may not be enough to merely grow food. With most people eating food grown by very large commercial agricultural enterprises, small farmers can attract sales with some creativity and a personal touch, reported Gosia Wozniacka of the Associated Press.
Farm operators generated $10 billion in 2007 from farm-related activities other than crop or livestock wholesale, an increase of nearly 80 percent from 2002, the article said.
For perspective on what is known as value-added agriculture, Wozniacka spoke to Shermain Hardesty, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Davis. Hardesty said value-added products are "a way to have a product to sell year-round, even during winter months."
Examples of value-added products are jams and jellies, farm stays, workshops and U-pick operations.
"It reinforces farmers' connection to consumers," Hardesty said. "And by getting involved in marketing their identities, they can expand their profitability."
Thirty percent of the farmers offering agritourism events supplemented their regular farm income by $50,000 or more in 2008, according to a study by the UC small farm program that was covered on the front page of today's Fresno Bee. Nearly two-thirds of California agritourism operators planned to expand or diversify over the next five years.
"There is no question that there is a lot of potential for growth, and we are seeing it happen," the story quoted Shermain Hardesty, small farm program director and a co-author of the report.
In the article, reporter Robert Rodriguez described several Valley agritourism destinations:
- Visitors can stay the night on the 95-acre tree Dinuba farm of Nori and Mike Taylor.
- Farmer John Olivas lets people pick their own fruit and operates a fruit stand on his three-acre berry farm in Hanford.
- Fresno farmer Mike Smith will allow people to pick their own flowers, lavender and produce on his 40-acre organic farm. In the fall, he will operate a pumpkin patch for the public and school tours.
"We know from all the consumer trends that people are willing to pay for an authentic experience and for specialty foods," said Ellie Rilla, community development adviser for UC Cooperative Extension in Marin County and co-author of the study. "And agritourism provides that."
The research article, California agritourism operations and their economic potential are growing, was published in the current issue of California Agriculture journal.
The San Diego Union Tribune ran a 1,500-word story on local agritourism last Friday, featuring UC expertise and resources front and center.
UC's agritourism coordinator Penny Leff provided reporter Emily Rizzo with a definition of agritourism, "a commercial enterprise on a working farm or ranch conducted for visitor enjoyment and education that generates supplemental income for owners."
Promoting agritourism in San Diego has been underway for years, but positioning the Southern California city as an agritourism destination, said UC small farm advisor Ramiro Lobo, is a relatively new concept.
In 1993, Taco Bell's founder opened Bell Gardens, a 115-acre educational farm that attracted 100,000 visitors annually to picnic, buy fresh produce and ride a mini-train. The ranch attracted busloads of agritourists but closed in 2003, the article said.
“It was obviously a heavily subsidized operation, but (it) created attention,” Lobo commented. “Entrepreneurial farmers started tapping into this as a real alternative to diversify their income stream.”
San Diego County now has more than 100 self-identified agritourism businesses, Lobo told the reporter.
Leff and Lobo agree that consumers want to visit real agricultural operations and have a keen sense when it comes to discerning hokey operations from working farms.
“You don’t have to create a Disneyland,” Lobo said. “We want working farmers to be able to capitalize on this without having to spend a ton of money to create something artificial. Pseudo-farms, for the most part, never really did a great job. Those have come and gone.”
Among the UC agritourism resources mentioned in the story were:
- The UC California Agricultural Tourism Directory, which highlights farms and ranches to visit and upcoming events, at CalAgTour.org.
- University of California Cooperative Extension in San Diego County