Farm Trails Organizations Harness Creativity and Partnerships to Get Their Members on the Map

Sep 30, 2021

Farm Trails Organizations Harness Creativity and Partnerships to Get Their Members on the Map

Sep 30, 2021

Many farmers and ranchers list marketing their agritourism operation as one of their biggest challenges.  Groups that support agritourism in their region, such as farm trail organizations, play a critical role in promoting local farmers and ranchers, using collective marketing to uplift the entire area's agricultural offerings. Here we highlight two farm trails' creative and collaborative approach to marketing their members this year.

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The 2021 summer edition of edible San Luis Obispo included a 12-page insert Savoring Summer Along the SLO Co Farm Trail, highlighting the region's bounty from farm to table. The insert, produced by FARMstead ED/SLO Co Farm Trail is an informational and celebratory guide to the region's products, producers, and agritourism experiences.  Lynette Sonne, founder of FARMstead ED, was inspired by Nevada County's Food and Farm Guide, but FARMstead ED was not in the position to publish its own full-length magazine, so Sonne approached Gail Cayetano, owner of edible SLO, a publication with a history of supporting and uplifting local farmers.  Cayetano encouraged FARMstead ED to put its resources towards developing an insert, leveraging edible SLO's circulation while telling FARMstead ED's own story. 

The result of this collaboration was a win all around. Sonne remarks, “As the saying goes, we are stronger as a herd, than individuals.  Collectively, we showcased nearly 40 local businesses. The investment to create a marketing piece of this caliber is out of reach for most of these businesses budgets, so collaborating and cross-pollinating together with this high quality magazine shines a light on them, creating an opportunity for exposure of their products to 10,000+ print distribution and many more times via web, that they may not have had otherwise.”

The Savoring Summer Along the SLO Co Farm Trail insert is just one (high impact) example of collaboration – a concept that seems to be foundational to the agricultural community in San Luis Obispo county.  According to Sonne, “Our partners are masterful in what we call cross-pollinating.  They reach out to each other to gain ingredients and knowledge to create even more locally made products.  Those who make body care products include local EVOO, honey & flowers and we couldn't grow our own cocktail garden without herbs & fruits.”  For farmers and supporters alike, collaboration is invaluable. For many farm trail organizations, collaboration not only builds community, it is a necessity to achieve their missions with limited resources. 

 

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In 2020, Sierra Oro Farm Trail (SOFT) in Butte County CA could not hold their open farm days due to the pandemic.  This year, they are employing technology, in the form of a digital farm pass, and a little rebranding, to safely bring visitors back onto area farms and vineyards.  In collaboration with Explore Butte County, the area tourism group, SOFT was able to access the platform that would host the digital pass. This partnership alleviated a cost and capacity barrier that many small groups face when navigating how to employ new technology.  The digital pass is a win for visitors, farmers, and SOFT.  As founder and director Nicole Johansson puts it, “Digital passes are an industry trend.  We are attracting customers from metro areas and this is what they are used to.”  (Tip: Johansson is a strong proponent on keeping a keen eye on your target audience as well as travel trends, recommending that other groups uses resources like Visit California and local tourism bureau for statistics.)  Digital passes also limit handling at each location, save money and staff resources on shipping passes or handing them out at pick up locations (no lines here!), making them safer and easier to manage.   

Another safety-minded change that SOFT made this year is extending the pass from just one weekend to the whole month.  Johansson is hoping that offering the pass for the month will spread people out, which will limit crowds and make welcoming them easier for farmers, many of whom are experiencing staffing difficulties.  SOFT has turned concerns over safety into an opportunity, encouraging visitors to ‘Go at your own pace' as they ‘Tour. Taste. Toast!' throughout Butte County. 

Agritourism operators in Butte are excited to welcome back visitors with the month long farm and wine pass.  “This kicks off the holiday season for us.  It is a Christmas preview, visitors can shop for holiday gifts from the farms and vineyards while they are here.”  And if they don't get to do all the shopping that they want during October, Johansson will be in touch with them to purchase one of the tasting boxes full of local products that SOFT compiles for holidays and special occasions – another way in which the organizations not only markets, but generates revenue for their members. 

Thank you to FARMstead ED and Sierra Oro Farm Trail for the work that you do to uplift your agricultural communities and for letting us share your stories. 


By Rachael Callahan
Author - Community Education Specialist/Statewide Agritourism Coordinator