Agritourism for the Holidays
The holiday season is upon us. It’s time to take a step back from the daily grind and give thanks for the food, family, and friends that we surround ourselves with. Growing up in an Italian family, I learned that there are two key ingredients to a memorable holiday gathering—good food and good company. I love that food is a world-wide connector. We gather over food to celebrate so many of life’s milestones. Just one bite and food can send you back in time to some of your fondest and most cherished memories.
Maybe because of the hustle and bustle of our day-to-day lives, we long for meaningful food experiences. Whether in a new city, or in their own backyards, people are seeking a deeper connection with their environment. Farming has been an essential part of human history that continues to develop today. San Diego is quickly becoming a destination for culinary travel and agritourism with no signs of stopping.
Agritourism—what does that mean? It is broadly defined as an opportunity for people to visit a farm or ranch and participate in activities for enjoyment and education. This can include farm stays, farm dinners, various classes, picnics, tours, and an array of other activities. It’s no secret—farming is hard work and our local farmers need our support more than ever before. By adding invaluable ways to further connect their community to their food sources, farmers are able to add another revenue stream to their profitability.
Leslee Gaul, President and CEO of the Visit Oceanside Conference and Visitors Bureau, applauds local farmers for educating and exposing the community to their local food system. “If we don’t pay attention to initiatives happening in our local communities, we will lose this critical way of life,” Gaul says. Local farmers are providing spaces (figuratively and literally) for connection while ensuring financial stability during some of the most trying times.
If you’re like me and are seeking unique experiences to share with your loved ones this holiday season, I’ve put together some ideas on how you and your family and friends can reconnect and experience San Diego at its core.
Take a class on a local farm.
Wild Willow Farm and Education Center in Imperial Beach has a packed calendar of various classes you can take to learn about regenerative agriculture, healthy soil, pickling, raising goats, cheese making, and beekeeping. You can even take a six-week intensive course about small-scale farming and learn to grow food in your own backyard. “We truly believe that the best food is the food you grow yourself. We are here to show our community that growing your own food is possible and it doesn’t have to be scary,” says Founding Farmer, Mel Lions. With a variety of classes offered year-round, you’re guaranteed to leave Wild Willow Farm with a newfound love for a once daunting idea.
Take a farm tour or visit your local farm stand.
Veteran owned and operated, Dickinson Farm is an all heirloom urban farm in National City. Farmers Stepheni Norton and Mike Lesley saw an opportunity to grow food for their community in one of San Diego’s biggest food deserts. Every Monday night you can find the Dickinson Farm Farm Stand at Machete Beer House where you can enjoy your craft brew and shop directly from your local farmer. Every second Saturday of the month, the farm is open to the public for their on-site farm stand and farm tours. “By visiting and shopping from your local farm, you’re shopping your values. When we lose farms and farmers, we lose sustainability and sufficiency. Local farms provide local jobs, increase local economy, and keep local dollars local,” says Norton. Dickinson Farm also offers a series of unique farm-to-table dining experiences to reconnect their community by breaking bread over meaningful conversation.
Dine alfresco on a local farm.
Cyclops Farms is located in a residential neighborhood of Oceanside with a gorgeous ocean view. That view comes with a hefty price tag. Faced with paying residential water prices, farmer Luke Girling created his Water Bill Dinner series at Cyclops Farms to raise money to, well…pay his water bill. By adding this revenue stream, it frees up finances to spend on other farm expenditures like organic fertilizer, seeds, and equipment. Girling has cultivated relationships with talented local chefs who are committed to ensuring quality local food is getting to our tables. Girling and team create monthly dinners serving a truly farm-to-fork meal. Guests can purchase their seats for these dinners by visiting the farm stand on Saturdays. “We want to reward the people who are loyal to their community, who continuously support Cyclops Farms. By visiting the farm stand, we’re given the opportunity to connect with people who care about their food and, in turn, give them first pick at attending one of our farm dinners,” says Girling.
Enjoy your holiday season with loved ones over some good, local food.