I grew up in a small town in New York that was rural and agricultural. It was also an hour and a half drive from Manhattan, something people sometimes have a hard time picturing. But it's true: Less than two hours from the big, wicked city, my small town (the village had 6,000 people when I was in high school) was filled with pick your own apple orchards; dairy farms being run by the seventh generation of the same families; 12,000 acres of the best soil on earth, mostly planted to onions; and a bustling fall tourist industry fueled by apple picking, apple cider, hay mazes, and pumpkin patches.
I worked in one of the orchards for two or three years, pulling cases of cider out of a refrigerated truck and collecting thousands of dollars in a single day from city dwellers who had come for their annual day in the country. I even had NYC taxis come through my line occasionally!
So I know that tourism based on farms and food can work. Heck, I participate in it wherever I go. I visit farmers markets and specialty food shops and haunt Yelp for restaurant recommendations any time I travel.
This all leads up to my being very excited for tomorrow! Travel Oregon, the state office of tourism for our neighbors, are putting on a series of tourism workshops for the Oregon part of the Wild Rivers Coast. There are some great topics (Wednesday is bicycle tourism, for instance, and there are tourism marketing workshops early next year), but tomorrow I'm heading to Gold Beach for eight hours of training in Culinary- and Agri-Tourism!
Thanks to our location at the north end of the Redwood National and State Parks, a steady stream of people drive through Del Norte County. A lot of them, unfortunately, drive straight through without stopping for more than a short hike and a quick stop at one of the visitor centers. We have more to offer than the magnificent redwoods and I think our food and farms are one of our developing attractions. I'll spend tomorrow listening and learning and hope to return to our part of the Wild Rivers Coast with some thoughts about attracting more tourist time, attention, and dollars on our food system.