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Strengthening California Food Networks with Agritourism and Direct Sales

Strengthening California Local Food Networks with Agritourism and Direct Sales


About the Project

The UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC SAREP) Agritourism Program is managing this 3-year project (Oct. 2020-Sept. 2023), in collaboration with a team of ANR Cooperative Extension advisors and staff working with established agricultural and agritourism associations to provide education, technical assistance, promotion and networking support for farmers and ranchers throughout California who are engaged in direct marketing and agritourism activities.

This project, funded with support from a USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program grant, was designed in response to the impact on small-scale agricultural operations and local food systems caused by COVID-19. 


Project Collaborators

The UC ANR team, working under the direction of UC SAREP Director Gail Feenstra and coordinated by UC SAREP Agritourism Coordinator Rachael Callahan, includes Laura Snell, County Director, UCCE Modoc County, Luis Espino, County Director, UCCE Butte County, Margaret Gullette Lloyd, Small Farms Advisor, UCCE Solano County, Karen Giovannini, UCCE Sonoma County Agruiculture Ombudsman and Laura Crothers, UC SAREP Communication Specialist. We will partner for this project with the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) and established producer based agriculture associations Modoc HarvestSonoma County Farm TrailsSierra Oro Farm Trail (Butte Co.) and Pleasants Valley Agriculture Association (Solano Co.).


Project Design

Training & technical assistance

Webinar Series

A series of webinars for farmers and ranchers adopting and adapting new and modified direct marketing and agritourism activities, on the following topics: (Recordings of each webinar found here)

#1 Online sales options and methods

#2 Getting started with CSAs and box delivery programs

#3 Operating a safe, healthy & successful farm stand

#4 Best practices for U-Pick operations

#5 Best practices for visitor interaction with animals

#6 Best practices for farm tours, workshops and farm-based education

#7 Creative marketing and staying connected with social media

#8 Community collaboration – farm trail groups, tourism connections and other options

Regional Field Days

The project will build in-depth, hands-on learning and increased collaboration by farmers and ranchers through a series of four workshops/field days in each of four California regions severely impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. The workshops will be held in Modoc, Sonoma, Solano and Butte Counties. The half-day workshops/field days, held on the farms or ranches of experienced operators of the activities being discussed, will focus on the following topics:

#1 Expanding direct-to-consumer sales through online sales/on-farm pickup, CSAs, farm direct delivery and commercial or contracted shipping

#2 Developing and marketing successful community-serving farm stands and U-Pick Operations

#3 Planning and marketing farm dinners, tours, workshops and other on-farm educational activities for the local community

#4 Community collaboration, community events and shared marketing - examples and best practices for increased connections, producer support, successful marketing and shared operations

Marketing: Connecting farms and ranches to local communities for resilient local food systems

During the project, the experienced leaders of the four partnering agricultural associations will conduct marketing campaigns promoting direct sales and agritourism activities at local farms to local communities. The campaigns will be different in each region, but will include a mix of social media marketing, print, radio and paid media advertising, signs, postcards, fliers, and creative collaborative direct sales and agritourism events or activities.

Organizing: Regional networks for ongoing support of direct sales and agritourism

The agricultural marketing association leaders will also convene and facilitate quarterly meetings of regional “Direct Sales and Agritourism Networking Groups.” Each networking group will include the partnering organizations as well as regional farmers' market associations, tourism bureaus and local farm advocates, and will regularly discuss issues, provide peer support, and work together to strengthen local food security and connect farmers and ranchers with their communities through direct sales and agritourism.

Read the blog post about the USDA FMPP grant award funding this project.