- Author: Rachael Callahan
- Author: Cooper Limon
As summer weather approaches and schools across California end their spring sessions, farms will finally have the opportunity to begin returning their operations back to normal. On June 15th, “All counties in California, regardless of how high or low coronavirus transmission is, will be allowed to all reopen at the same time”. The state is planning on releasing updated mask-wearing policies and emergency closure plans in the case of a resurgence in Covid-19 transmission after June 15th, but in the meantime all businesses and events below the “Mega Event” description will be allowed to operate under “business as normal” procedures. Outdoor events, like the fair, that estimate over 10,000 people to attend will recommend individuals to be tested and/or vaccinated.
The cancellation of summertime staples in 2020 such as open farm days and fairs last year, took an emotional toll as traditions were disrupted and opportunities to connect were missed, as well as a financial tool as these events often serve as a fundraiser for non-profits and a sales outlet for farmers and ranchers. Happily, this summer will see the return of many beloved community events - with some new modifications to ensure safety and comfortability.
One area taking advantage of the new COVID-19 protocols is Suisun Valley, a unique and diverse farming community in Solano County, northern California. Suisun Valley is bringing back their annual staple event, Passport Sunday on August 8th, featuring 12 different vineyards, food trucks, and more. This event is limited to 600 people, a decrease from their usual 1,000 person occupancy to ensure the safety of all people in attendance.
In San Luis Obispo, the SLO County Farm Trail will be showing off all that their region has to offer during their Open Farm Day on July 17th, including cider tasting, sachet making, and plenty of demos. Similarly, the Pleasant Valley Agriculture Association, an association of farmers in Vacaville, who have a collective interest in agriculture tourism and land preservation recently announced that 12 farms in the area will be participating in Open Farm Days on June 26th and 27th. These farms will be in compliance with the updated covid-19 standards and will be featuring products ranging from fresh honey, produce, and jams, and facilitating activities like farm tours and Alpaca feeding.
As agritourism operations and organizations navigate how to reopen safely and within their capacity, this summer will bring back a sense of normalcy with the return of many cherished agritourism events.
- Author: Penny Leff
New this year – snow in Lathrop!
Christmas carols fill the air, Santa chats with children in the general store full of sweet treats and local crafts and families meet live raindeer and baby farm animals. Meanwhile, a crew of farmworkers-turned-snowmakers work 24 hours a day blowing 100 tons of snow onto a tube-sledding slope. It's all at the Dell’Osso Family Farm right off Highway 5 just south of Lathrop. Welcome to the latest family adventure in the San Joaquin valley, Holidays on the Farm.
Ron and Susan Dell’Osso started taking their October pumpkin patch and corn maze seriously about eight years ago, and last year about 140,000 people showed up to buy pumpkins, enjoy the corn maze, haunted house, pony rides, pumpkin blaster, and otherwise play on Dell’Osso Family Farm. Tourists contributed about 50 percent of the San Joaquin County farm’s gross annual income. The other 50 percent of income comes from 350 acres of pumpkins, Indian corn and other seasonal specialty crops sold wholesale through a broker to grocery stores throughout the Western United States.
This March, the Dell’Ossos started researching Christmas attractions in order to extend their agritourism season. They bought a train and a zipline, built a general store with a bakeshop, learned how to make snow and opened the first annual “Holidays on the Farm” in late November. The train, zipline and store make business sense when they are amortized over both the October and December holiday seasons. The Snow Tube Mountain is already popular, with online reservations recommended for the $15.00 90-minute sessions of tubing, since the hill can only hold 250 tubers each session.
Why would these third-generation farmers turn to corn mazes and snow-making? Susan Dell’Osso explained that agritourism spreads the risk. Commercial farmers hope to make a three percent return on crops like alfalfa or pumpkins, and some years, like last year, 50 percent of the pumpkin crop can be wiped out by wet weather and mold problems.
Holiday attractions like Dell’Osso’s are also great ways to connect to and support the local community and offer low-cost entertainment for local families. Dell’Osso Family Farm tries to keep the prices low. There is no charge for parking or admission and some activities like the hay rides and go-cart speedway are free. They also include more than twenty local non-profit organizations by offering concession opportunities for volunteers to donate their time to benefit organizations including the Lathrop Senior Center, the Lathrop Police and Fire departments and the Lathrop Square Dance Club. In addition to extending the work season for many farmworkers, all of the agritourism employees are hired locally, and the popular operation is a major contributor to the local tax-base.
Watch for more pumpkin patch operators to jump on the December holiday wagon next year!