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Agritourism a growing industry on the Central Coast, bringing in visitors and business to local farms

Agritourism Luffa Farm
Many Central Coast farms are growing business by taking part in agritourism, which is attracting visitors to their operations (Dave Alley/KEYT)

SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- Agritourism is a growing business on the Central Coast.

With a myriad of agricultural operations, the Central Coast is a perfect place for agritourism, which is defined as a farming operation that attracts visitors.

“It’s exciting times," said Jennifer Harrison, Santa Maria Valley Visitors Bureau director. "I think it allows us to put our ag in front of people who may not be familiar with it, is a huge asset for us. It’s a big win for our community, especially because we are really a mecca of produce and fruits and berries and so many amazing things come out of the community and to be able to tell that story is really beneficial to the community.”

According to the Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioner's Office, as well as the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau, there is not any specific statistics on just how much revenue agritourism is bringing to the county.

However, both offices do say it is significant, which mirrors similar trends currently happening across the state and nation.

According to Ag Alert, a weekly publication for California agriculture, revenues more than tripled between 2002 and 2017. Those numbers came from the most recent U.S. Census of Agriculture.

There are many benefits to agritourism. For farms and ranches, it's a way to increase revenue, by attracting people directly to their operation.

"They come for the free tour and then they buy the products that we make here, so it really helps us to be able to keep the farm open by having people come visit so they can buy our products right here," said Brooklynn Gamble, The Luffa Farm supervisor.

The Nipomo-based business has been around for nearly 20 years, attracting visitors to its unique farm, one of only a handful that grow the organic sponges.

"We give a very hands-on tour where we let people actually peel the luffa and show them how they're harvested, explain everything that goes into getting the luffa from the vine to their hand ready to use," said Gamble.

Gamble said visitors come from all over the world.

"People really enjoy experiencing what the Central Coast has and we do have so much agriculture," said Gamble. "It really is vital for places like this to be around to show the public how it works because it really highlights what the Central Coast is all about."

About 25 minutes away east of Orcutt is Cottonwood Canyon Winery.

It's just one of countless Central Coast wineries taking part in agritourism

"What we offer in the Santa Maria Valley is adventure, enjoyment and some great wine and other produce," said owner Norman Beko. "That's unique to our area and I think that alone justifies getting people to come out, stop watching TV, see what we have to offer because it is unique and wonderful."

Beko said the winery is 100 percent reliant on visitors who come out to the picturesque property.

"We're getting a lot more because of our website," said Beko. "Because of our uniqueness and our caves and our barrel tasting, that's drawing lots of people, which is really fortunate for us."

Those who do visit say it's worth the time.

"I think it's a breath of fresh air, getting away from town and getting to step back and really see the agriculture on the Central Coast," said Hannah Jackson.

Agitourism also plays a significant role in boosting the local economy, brining it visitors to local hotels, restaurants, shops and other businesses.

“It’s pretty significant to us," said Harrison. “Everyone really benefits from the traveler and I think it goes beyond the hotel. It includes gas stations. We’ll have the new flights coming this summer and this will certainly see some influence there.”

Article Topic Follows: Agriculture
cottonwood canyon winery
luffa farm

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Dave Alley

Dave Alley is a reporter and anchor at News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Dave, click here.


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