AgriTourism: Opportunity- But, “It’s a Whole New Business”

John Holland reported on Friday at the Sacramento Bee Online that, “At last check, the Modesto area had no Disney theme parks, cable cars or mountain peaks — little to catch the typical tourist’s eye.

It does have fruit and nut growers, wine and cheese makers, and other producers of food and drink in abundance. And the area could get a greater share of California’s visitor spending if this were marketed well.

A meeting Thursday explored how produce stands, tasting rooms, festivals and other ventures could increase farm income in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. Speakers also warned of county rules designed to protect the countryside from traffic, noise, trash and other impacts.”

The article noted that, “The meeting was the latest in a series put on by the University of California Small Farm Program and the UC Cooperative Extension. It drew a few dozen people to the Stanislaus County Agricultural Center, off Crows Landing Road.

“The audience heard about Dutch Hollow Farms, which offers tulips, pumpkins and other seasonal attractions just northeast of Modesto. And about R.A.M. Farms, just east of Turlock, which has corn and hay mazes, pumpkins, ice skating and more.

Agritourism also can be an event, such as the annual Pick & Gather at Riverdance Farms.”

Mr. Holland pointed out that, “Stanislaus County zoning rules encourage farm-related activities on ag land, said Angela Freitas, director of planning and community development. She noted how they were tweaked last year to prevent weddings in the wrong places.

“Farmers also need to assure safe handling of food, proper training of employees, and insurance policies that cover what is planned on the farm.

“‘When you get into agritourism, you’re in the hospitality business,’ said Penny Leff, coordinator for this effort at the Small Farm Program. ‘It’s a whole new business, and you have a bunch of new things to learn.'”

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