As the first-of-its-kind throughout the region, an upcoming summit in Modesto hopes to bring together Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced county residents who are involved in agritourism.
“Farmers and ranchers are doing a lot of exciting agritourism activities in the northern San Joaquin Valley and it’s important that they have a chance to share with each other,” said UC Small Farm Program Agritourism Coordinator Penny Leff. “It’s a chance for everybody involved in agritourism in the region to get together, learn from each other and hopefully work together in the future.”
As defined by the UC Small Farm Program, agricultural tourism or agritourism is a “commercial enterprise at a working farm or ranch conducted for the enjoyment and education of visitors, and that generates supplemental income for the owner or operator.” Examples of agritourism include farm stands or shops, U-pick, farm stays, tours, on-farm classes, fairs, festivals, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, Christmas tree farms, winery weddings, orchard dinners, youth camps, barn dances and guest ranches.
Leff said that everyone in the region involved in agritourism is encouraged to attend the inaugural summit, which will provide an opportunity for farmers, ranches, county planners and members of the tourism community to share, learn and plan together. Presentations and discussion topics will include county regulations, marketing plans, social media and event organizing training sessions, collaborative activities and other ideas for agritourism development.
“The goal of the event is to show off some exciting agritourism opportunities,” said Leff. “We will have presentations from some experienced agritourism operators, a panel discussion with county planners to talk about regulations, and small group discussion or breakout groups.”
Agritourism operators slated to speak during the summit include Karen Macedo from R.A.M. Farms in Turlock, which is home to a pumpkin patch, corn maze and ice rink every year, and Cindy Lashbrook from Riverdance Farms in Livingston, which hosts an annual Pick and Gather festival.
The summit will also include input from Mark Hendrickson from Merced County Economic Development, Angela Freitas and Kristin Doud from the Stanislaus County Planning Department and a representative from the San Joaquin County Planning Department. These speakers will discuss county planning and regulating, as well as any changes or plans regarding the agritourism process.
The inaugural summit is organized and sponsored by the UC Small Farm Program, UC
Cooperative Extension, and funded in part by the Farmers Market Promotion Program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Leff said that this will be one of four similar agritourism summits hosted throughout the state.