B&B’s on farms? Pick your own blueberries? Pumpkin patches and corn mazes?
Welcome to the growing world of agritourism, and the new wave of entrepreneurial farmers who are adapting to the interests of an increasingly urban population.
When dairy farmer Beth Kennett first started milking cows in the White River Valley of Vermont, there were 11 other working farms. Today, as the sole dairy remaining in the Valley, she supplements her income by opening her historic farmhouse to overnight guests from around the world.
Overall, agritourism in Vermont has meant a $10 million jump in farm income in the past two years. New York state has estimated its agritourism related income at $210 million and growing.
This week, join host Jerry Kay, publisher of the Environmental News Network as we meet some of the working farmers behind this growing industry and find out how they balance agriculture and entertainment.
This Week's Guests:
Ellie Rilla Director, Marin County University of California Cooperative Extension|
Ellie is the County Director for the UC Cooperative Extension office in Marin County, directly north of San Francisco. She is an expert in agritourism and recently published a state handbook on the topic for farmers and ranchers. Ellie is currently coordinating a three-year grant from the Clarence E. Heller Foundation to help the local agricultural community transition to more sustainable and organic practices. She is active in land use policy, agricultural diversification and water quality issues in Marin. Ellie was a board member of Select Sonoma County for five years and has been active in local branding and marketing programs including the start up of Marin Organic, an association of farmers, ranchers, agriculture advisors and marketing experts who promote Marin County California’s organic farmers.
Beth Kennett Owner, Liberty Hill Farm/Chair, VT Farms Association|
Beth grew up on a farm in Maine that had been in her family since 1641. Beth and her husband Bob purchased Liberty Hill Farm in Rochester, VT in 1979. They milk 75 registered Holsteins and crop 200 acres in the White River Valley with the help of their two sons, Tom and David. She has operated a farm vacation business, providing lodging and meals for guests from around the world for the past 20 years. Liberty Hill Farm has been featured in numerous national publications and has been filmed for several television programs. Beth is well known for her bountiful farm-style meals using farm fresh seasonal ingredients.
Beth serves as the President of the VT Farms! Association, the statewide agritourism association. In addition, Beth represents the farm community of regional and statewide boards including the VT Information Council, Eastern States Exposition VT trustee, UVM Extension Advisory board, and the VT Dairy Promotion Council.
Nita Gizdich Owner, Gizdich Ranch|
As the matriarch of a 50 acre u-pick berry farm outside of Watsonville, CA, that her father in law started in the 1930’s, Nita has been involved with agritourism for over 40 years. The ranch offers travelers, tourists and school children the opportunity to pick their own ollalieberries (blackberries), strawberries, boysenberries and raspberries. Antiques and homemade pies also help attract visitors.
Nita is a frequent consultant to other farmers and ranchers and has received numerous agricultural awards including the University of California Small Farm Program's Pioneer Agriculturist Award in 2000 and Ag Woman of the Year 2004 given by the nonprofit group Ag Against Hunger based in Salinas, CA
Resources for Journalists:
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