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Agritourism workshops build new networks for diversification

The Issue

Many factors - such as supply chain consolidation, falling wholesale prices, rising costs and economies of scale - push small- and mid-scale farmers increasingly to direct marketing and alternative enterprises to keep their agricultural businesses viable.

Public demand is increasing for local agricultural products and education about local farms and ranches. Agritourism welcomes visitors to a working farm for education and enjoyment while providing additional income for the agritourism operator. In a 2009 survey by UC researchers, operators reported agritourism as a profitable diversification strategy.

Agritourism requires farmers and ranchers to learn new hospitality skills and marketing partnerships, and it is a business that is regulated by zoning ordinances and permitting in each of the state’s 58 counties.

What Has ANR Done?

With funds from the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, and additional support provided by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, UC ANR provided a year-long training program to 355 participants in five California regions: the North Coast, Northern Valley and Mountains, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, San Joaquin Valley and Foothills, and the Central Coast. Sixty county planning staff members representing 16 counties also attended the training.

Workshops and follow-up meetings focused on skill development in: agritourism challenges and opportunities, business planning, risk management, hospitality and effective marketing. Participants shared best practices and organized new regional networks. Participants also worked with local planning and community development agencies to reduce permitting and regulatory barriers to new agritourism operations.

The Payoff

Regional workshops spur new networks and linkages

Since the training 14 percent of participating farmers or ranchers hosted visitors for the first time; 30 percent have begun planning new agritourism activities; and 92 percent of non-farmer participants have helped promote agritourism in their communities.

Clientele Testimonial

“Participation in the workshops and follow-up meetings made us aware of the Agricultural Overlay zoning that was included in the Butte General Plan. We contacted our county planning staff and added our farm to this very important zoning area.” – Small-scale citrus grower

“After attending the workshops, the Division of Fairs & Expositions has a heightened awareness of agritourism, and we are working to bring the agritourism and fair communities together in a mutually beneficial program that will bring consumers closer to their food source in fun and exciting ways. ” – Rebecca Desmond, director, California Division of Fairs & Expositions.


Supporting Unit: Small Farm Program

Penny Leff, (530) 752-7779, paleff@ucdavis.edu
Ellie Rilla, (415) 473-4204, erilla@ucdavis.edu