UC Davis experts help farmers, ranchers partake in growing trend
Agritourism is growing in California, along with sales and production of much of the world’s fruits, vegetables and nuts. More and more people are paying to enjoy the bounty and beauty of California’s farms and ranches by touring peach and cherry farms near Fresno, taking classes in beekeeping, attending festivals devoted to strawberries or attending a host of other activities offered by farmers and ranchers throughout the state.
Many farmers could benefit from agritourism and the added value it brings, but developing successful agritourism operations can be tricky. Experts at the Agricultural Sustainability Institute (ASI) at UC Davis are helping farmers and others in the agricultural community understand the regulations, permits, insurance, marketing and other considerations needed to succeed.
“Agritourism operations are more successful when they’re part of a supportive community of tourism professionals, county regulators, agriculture regulations and others,” says Gail Feenstra, ASI’s food and society coordinator.
Feenstra and her team recently received a $73,000 grant from Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, a U.S. Department of Agriculture program, to develop training, resources and peer support for farmers and ranchers considering agritourism. Feenstra is working with Penny Leff, ASI statewide agritourism coordinator and team project manager.
Leff led previous projects that offered agritourism education to groups of farmers, ranchers and others involved in California agritourism. In this new project, Leff is providing comprehensive training to smaller, more targeted groups that will then offer training to others in their community.
“We’re helping farmers and ranchers assess their agritourism potential, whether it be U-pick farming, dinners on the farm, classes or even overnight lodging,” Leff says. “We help navigate everything from zoning ordinances to marketing plans.”
The project’s ultimate goal is to develop at least 24 clusters of vibrant agritourism operations in California that sustain producers, educate visitors and support the economic health of the entire community.
As Leff notes, “Agritourism is an exciting opportunity for farmers, and also for visitors who can learn about and enjoy what farm living has to offer.”
Diane Nelson, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, 530-752-1969, firstname.lastname@example.org