California targets agritourism dollars

07/01/2014 07:52:00 AM
Mike Hornick

Beyond sales of fresh produce under the California Grown label, the state is banking on the brand becoming a source of farm tourism dollars.

California is Always in SeasonState agriculture secretary Karen Ross updated growers, commodity groups and processors on the rollout of the “California, Always in Season” program at a June 30 luncheon in Fresno. The program, unveiled in April, is a partnership between California Grown and nonprofit tourism marketer Visit California.

About 60 producers of table grapes, apples, blueberries, pistachios and other crops and foods met with Ross and Visit California chief executive officer Caroline Beteta at California State University, Fresno.

Over six months, print spreads in Food & Wine magazine and accompanying videos will feature California growers, chefs and vintners.

In one social media promotion, consumers are invited to take selfie photos with the California Grown logo or anything grown in the state. Once posted on Facebook or Twitter using #cagrown, a pound of food will be donated to a food bank.

The Buy California Marketing Agreement manages the California Grown — CA Grown — campaign. The joint effort with Visit California is funded by the federal Specialty Crop Block Grant program.

Of the $112 billion spent on California tourism in 2012, $28.5 billion was for food. Ross sees an opportunity for agriculture to become more involved.

“One of the durable trends is the focus of consumers on their local food, how it’s grown and who’s growing it,” Ross said. “A big part of our steps forward will be putting the farmers in the spotlight to be the next celebrities of the food movement, much like winemakers and chefs. Consumers want to see the growers and engage with them.”

They’re also drawn to events like Madera’s Pomegranate Festival, she said.

California Grown has been pushing for broader participation by grower-shippers, retailers and others in the trade. In the last six months, for example, there have been retail promotions with Target, Safeway, Whole Foods, Wal-Mart and Trader Joe’s.

“We are also in the process of finalizing partnerships to do special promotions with the California Restaurant Association and the California Retailers Association,” Ross said.

“We are now over 100 commissions, marketing orders and farm organizations,” she said. Among them are the California Avocado Commission and California Farm Bureau Federation.

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