Posts Tagged: agritourism
The COVID-19 pandemic hit farmers hard. Supply chains were disrupted and even non-traditional agritourism revenue streams such as hay mazes and on-farm events had to be canceled due to shelter-in-place mandates.
On the other hand, demand for local farm products skyrocketed, and thus many farmers and ranchers needed a quick pivot strategy and a set of new skills.
UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) was well-positioned to support this shift toward direct sales, pulling in trusted community partners and experienced farmers and ranchers to put together a comprehensive webinar series, “Agritourism and Direct Sales: Best Practices in COVID Times and Beyond”.
Funded by a USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) grant, the webinar series is part of a three-year project, Strengthening California Local Food Networks with Agritourism and Direct Sales, which provides trainings and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers on how to diversify their revenue streams.
The strength of the series, which includes eight webinars that were recorded earlier this year and are available online, lies in the collaborations among the UC SAREP Agritourism Program, UCCE, community groups, and farmers and ranchers.
The series features a range of speakers, including representatives from community organizations, technical experts, academic researchers, and farmers – all coming together to build resilience and adaptability for small-farming operations and the agritourism industry across California during the pandemic and after.
“It's great to collaborate with other organizations and regions, to learn from each other and to broaden our networks, as we are all working to create more resilient and sustainable food systems,” said Carmen Snyder, executive director of Sonoma County Farm Trails, one of the nonprofit partners on this project.
And because of those strong partnerships, the webinar topics reflected the on-the-ground needs facing agricultural producers.
“COVID initially dramatically affected farmers' restaurant contracts, with many losing more than 80% of their accounts overnight,” Snyder said. “CSAs [Community Supported Agriculture], on the other hand, couldn't keep up with the demand, and all of our CSA members were full and had wait lists for the first time ever. Producers pivoted by creating more online stores, including pick-up and delivery options. It was a challenge for them to navigate the new technology and platforms.”
The “Online Sales Options and Methods” webinar, a partnership with the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), provided an overview of several e-commerce marketing and online sales strategies that farmers can implement to diversify their revenue pathways and reach new customers. CAFF stressed the importance of farmers enhancing their resiliency through e-commerce.
The webinar also featured Ciara Shapiro, the owner of AM Ranch in Penn Valley, who shared her experience with online marketing and how it helped her and her husband survive the pandemic when the restaurants and farmers markets they sold to shut down. This personal and informative webinar demonstrated the effectiveness of online sales and marketing, while highlighting available resources from groups like CAFF.
The “Safe, Healthy and Successful Farm Stands” webinar was aimed at farms of all sizes and organizations that operate or advise agricultural operations using farm stands as a form of revenue. The webinar provided an outline of the rules and regulations that farm stand operators needed to follow during COVID – as well as during business-as-usual times.
Both farmers saw an increase in farm stand business during the pandemic, which Yagi attributed to the “traffic storm of people” who attended their annual plant sale fundraiser and came to participate in new farm outdoor activities and volunteer opportunities. Yagi also noted the growing number of low-income individuals who were unable to access fresh produce during the pandemic.
The speakers' shared experiences running successful farm stands gave audience members tangible examples and real-time information on how to incorporate farm stands into their businesses.
Carmen Snyder of Sonoma County Farm Trails, which helped circulate the recorded webinars to their network of farmers and ranchers, remarked: “These webinars were extremely helpful for local producers, to get clarity on best pandemic practices during these challenging times and to learn how other producers are adapting and navigating the circumstances.”
The economic shocks brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed California's farmers and ranchers to quickly embrace new business practices — including creative new ways to sell directly to consumers. UC ANR and partners are offering an eight-part series of free virtual trainings to help producers build their businesses with agritourism and other direct-to-consumer sales.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge shock to California's food economy, forcing many of the state's growers to embrace new business practices and drop old ones as “shelter-in-place” directives rolled across the state.
But the pandemic's challenges bring new opportunities too. Consumers' interest in local food and local outdoor experiences has grown immensely, from community-supported agriculture (CSA) and other online ordering, delivery and on-farm pickup options, to visits to farm stands, U-pick operations and other family-friendly socially distanced outdoor activities.
Pivoting to these new marketing channels opens new revenue opportunities for farmers and ranchers across California and the nation. But each new marketing channel also demands new skills and connections.
To help build growers' skills to embrace these market channels, the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC SAREP) at UC Agriculture and Natural Resources is partnering with the Community Alliance of Family Farmers (CAFF) and expert growers across California to offer the free webinar series Agritourism and Direct Sales: Best practices in COVID times and beyond.
Through eight one-hour virtual trainings held this spring, participants will learn about best practices for implementing a variety of direct-to-consumer sales approaches. These trainings are offered to anyone interested in learning more about direct-to-consumer sales and agritourism. Topics and dates are:
|Getting started with community supported agriculture
||Tuesday February 23, 11am–12pm PST|
|Best practices for U-pick operations||Monday March 8, 3-4pm PST|
|Operating a safe, healthy and successful farm stand||Monday March 22, 3-4pm PST|
|Best practices for visitor interaction with animals||Monday April 5, 3-4pm PST|
|Best practices for farm tours, workshops and farm-based education||Monday April 19, 3-4pm PST|
|Online sales options and methods||Monday May 3, 3-4pm PST|
|Creative marketing and staying connected with social media||Monday May 17, 3-4pm PST|
|Community collaboration – farm trails, tourism partners and more||Monday May 24, 3-4pm PST|
Register at sarep.ucdavis.edu/agritourism2021.
For more information:
Penny Leff, UC SAREP, firstname.lastname@example.org, 530.902.9763 (cell)
Funding for this webinar series was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant #AM200100XXXXG177. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA./span>
Californians and California tourists love to get out of town to enjoy rural beauty and experience a taste of rural life. This often includes visiting California's many farms and ranches that offer farm tours, farm stays, workshops, festivals, dinners, fruit picking and even barn dances. As interest and demand for agricultural tourism grows, so does interest among California farmers and ranchers in creating enjoyable and educational experiences to meet this demand and create a new income stream. However, entering the hospitality business involves overcoming many challenges.
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) has taken the lead in California for many years in helping farmers and ranchers learn and connect as they grow their agritourism enterprises, through programs and resources coordinated by the UC Small Farm Program, and currently by the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program and the UC ANR Agriculture and Nature Tourism work group.
The site includes articles, work-sheets, checklists, guides, webinars, presentations, contacts and other materials created by UC ANR advisors and staff; presentations and handouts shared by agritourism stakeholders and educators at UC ANR agritourism workshops; and links to useful agritourism resources created by other universities and organizations. Materials on the site are organized by activity, by region, and by audience.
In addition to resources helpful for farmers and ranchers developing their own agritourism businesses, the website shares materials useful for agricultural educators, researchers, county and municipal staff and the tourism community in supporting agritourism development and regional agritourism promotion. One of the plans of the website creators is to include a clearinghouse of county planning documents and ordinances relating to agritourism, to make research a little bit easier for county planners and communities faced with updating regulations. Other sections of the website will be expanded over time as needs and interest dictate.
Poke around and see what you think. California Agritourism is still a work in progress. We'll be adding more pictures, resources and links on an ongoing basis. If you have suggestions or materials to share or links you would like to see included on the site, or if you see things that need fixing, please email Penny at email@example.com.
California farmers all over the state invite you to visit, shake off the city, learn a little and enjoy your holiday shopping the old-fashioned way; direct from the growers of winter fruits and creators of small-batch treats to fill your gift baskets. Here is a sample of some day-trips the whole family can enjoy:
Mountain Mandarin Orchard Days - Placer County - December 15 & 16, 2018
Visit the Mandarin Growers Map page to find the groves closest to you and for a list of Orchard Days activities at each ranch. The fun includes artists, crafters, and mandarin product sampling including oils, sauces, honey, juice, cakes, fudge and spreads. You can also visit with Santa, visit farm animals, get your face painted and pick your own mandarins. Learn more
Holiday Santa Tour and Sanrio Village - Tanaka Farms, Orange County - December 15 & 16, 2018
You will also have the opportunity to take photos with Santa and other farm-themed holiday sets while enjoying the gorgeous view. The wagon will then transport you back down to the festival grounds where you can continue the winer fun and photo opportunities. After the tour, take a "Walk through the Seasons" in a meandering corn maze filled with Hello Kitty & Friends decor celebrating each of our harvest seasons, all leading to the Sanrio Holiday Village, specially decorated for the holidays. Learn more
Holidays Along the Farm Trails - Sonoma County - various activities until January 1, 2019
Along the trail, you can tour a creamery, taste wine and cider, and watch a jam-making demo. Visitors must register (for free) to receive the list of participating destinations and offerings in the interactive online map. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.
Music at the Mill - Seka Hills Olive Mill & Tasting Room - Capay Valley, Yolo County - December 15, 2018
The Séka Hills Olive Mill & Tasting Room showcases the agricultural bounty of the region and is a destination for artisan goods and delicious locally sourced fare. Visitors are treated to scenic views of the surrounding orchard and rolling blue hills that inspired the name Séka Hills.
The Tasting Room is located inside the 14,000 square foot olive mill facility, offering an insider's view of how the Tribe's olives are grown, milled and finished into world-class, award-winning Séka Hills extra virgin olive oils. Guided tours and tastings offer visitors a chance to experience the growing line of fine agricultural products from the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation that now includes olive oils, wines, honey, beef jerky and seasoned nuts. Learn more.
Did you know that, in order to designate a wine as "Suisun Valley", 85 percent of the grapes used to make the wine must have been grown within the Suisun Valley AVA? When you tour Suisun Valley during this Aniversary Celebration you are helping to support the vintners and growers that are behind a very special area. The Anniversary Celebration "Tasting Pass" is a one day pass to taste the wines and other offerings around the Suisun Valley AVA at participating locations. By buyint a ticket to the Anniversary Celebration, attendees will be able to waive the normal tasting fees at the eleven participating locations and enjoy a fun day with friends and family.
Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door.
Click Here to Purchase
Explore the Cheese Trail of California
Check the map to design your own tour or pick one of various regions, find a tasting, class or cheese event near you, find cheesemaking supplies, private classes, online cheese sales, and the latest blog!
Find the Cheesemakers here.
Find many more opportunities to visit California farms, ranches and vineyards on the UC Agritourism Directory and Calendar of Events: www.calagtour.org.
Farmers work long hours under the open sky, struggling to finish each day's planting, cultivating, pruning or picking before the sun sets. It's hard sometimes to imagine, while engaged in this day-to-day pressure, but city people often welcome the chance to pay for an hour or two on that farm, especially if they can pick their own fresh fruit or vegetables. For many urban people, just getting out of town to a farm is a delicious pleasure.
U-Pick farming has a long tradition. Fifty years ago it was common for families to spend an afternoon picking bushels of produce to take home for canning or drying or storing for use in the winter. As more women joined the workforce full-time, the practice of preserving food became less common and U-Pick farms shifted their focus.
Visiting a farm became an enjoyable family experience, designed to build lasting memories, often with an underlying goal for farm visitors of teaching children where their food comes from. With the current popularity of local food and culinary adventures, U-Pick farming operations are growing in popularity and attracting new customers.
However, U-Pick farming comes with risks. Customers need welcoming and caring for, and they tend to break branches, wander where they are asked not to, and not show up when the weather is bad, even if the crops are ripe and ready. Farmers considering a U-Pick operation need to understand their liability and food safety responsibilities, budget and set prices carefully, and train staff in customer service skills.
UC SAREP staff developed the guide with the help of several California U-Pick farm operators who were willing to share their experience and advice with other farmers. The guide also includes advice provided by farmers and Extension educators from other states. Topics include:
- Crop Diversity and Packaging
- Location and Layout
- Communications and Promotion
- Permitting and regulatory compliance
- Financial Planning and Budgeting
- Staffing considerations
- Food safety & Risk Management
- Complementary products & attractions
After careful consideration, farmers may decide that a U-Pick operation is not for them, or they may decide to move forward with building lifelong connections with a community of grateful customers.
To find a farm to visit (including U-Pick farms) visit the UC Agritourism Directory and Calendar, www.calagtour.org.