The weather is finally beginning to cool off a little bit in Arizona, at least in the morning, and that means folks are starting to get outside and enjoy Arizona’s farms and ranches during the fall harvest.
How significant is agritourism to Arizona’s agriculture industry?
Arizona’s agritourism industry is growing and as of the 2017 census data, it accounted for about $14 million in sales.
“The high-season for our agritourism industry is like other states really kicking off in the fall with pumpkins, apples and corn maize’s, but it continues throughout the winter months and well into the spring,” says Arizona Farm Bureau President Stefanie Smallhouse and rancher in southern Arizona. Smallhouse was interviewed on October 5th by RFD-TV about our industry.
What kind of farms and ranches can a person visiting or living in Arizona expect to experience if they want to get out on the farm or learn more about agriculture in Arizona?
“Our farms and ranches open to the public provide educational, you-pick, and local farm to plate shopping opportunities as well as event and catering options,” added Smallhouse. “You can pick oranges, apples, corn and pumpkins, learn about growing cotton, milking cows, making olive oil, shop the local meat case and produce bins or give your kids the opportunity to run around like a farm kid and for desert eat fresh goat milk ice cream. Some farms host community events or private weddings while catering to local food at the same time.”
A significant portion of farm tours and experiences in Arizona involve visiting and touring vineyards. We have three major wine-growing regions in Arizona and as of 2013, there were 96 operations. If you are a connoisseur, there are several varieties to enjoy, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Syrah.
Says Smallhouse, “I love a Viognier from the Verde Valley region and a spicy red infused with green Chiles from the Sonoita region.”
Is there a potential for growth in this sector?
Smallhouse has great insights on this question: “Last year Farm Bureau worked very hard at our Legislature to pass new legislation defining agritourism as an important sector of Arizona agriculture. It now has a clear definition that will help address the issue of property taxes and regulatory issues. Inviting the public onto our farms and ranches is very hard work and is certainly not for everyone, but it offers a diversification on the farm to offset turbulent markets and growing conditions.”
She added, “The opportunity for the public to interact with growers is very important for the sustainability of agriculture in Arizona. These interactions are key to informing kids and adults alike as to how their food is grown and the challenges which exist in producing food and fiber.”
How have these farms and ranches adjusted during the pandemic?
The COVID pandemic hit our wine growers particularly hard with the loss of local sales and farms have had to adjust visitation for social distancing, but overall Arizona is known as a tourism destination and visiting our farms and ranches is a great way to experience not only our climate and scenery but also our locavore menus.