With the emergence of “shelter-in-place” directives, California’s small-scale direct-marketing farms and agritourism operations faced drastic and immediate disruptions to operations causing major losses in revenue and lay-offs for staff. Particularly hard-hit are agritourism operators who had to cancel visitor- serving activities, often reducing staff or not hiring for seasonal employment. Positively, the disruptions in food supply and mobility brought the existence and importance of local farms and ranches to the attention of much of the public. Demand for on-line food ordering, delivery and on-farm pickup options increased in many areas, as did sign-ups for community-supported agriculture (CSA) and other delivery programs. Many farm stands saw increased sales. Many U-Pick operations drew increased interest.
Although many farmers were able to pivot successfully from lost sales to new marketing channels, many lacked the skills or connections to do so. Increased awareness by the public of local farms and ranches indicates increased potential for local agritourism and direct sales opportunities in the near future, offering needed options for small-scale farm and ranch diversification. This project will offer training to small-scale California farmers and ranchers in establishing new and improved direct-to-consumer sales and agritourism activities, will support regional agritourism associations in promoting local farms and ranches to local communities, and will form regional direct-sales and agritourism networking groups to strengthen local food systems. Outcomes are increased access to local food and participation in local agritourism activities by community members and continued increased revenue to local farms and ranches from direct sales and agritourism activities.