MONROE CO., N.Y. — Field trips are usually associated with school groups but this one was different. It was organized by CCE-MC for the group of 10 farmers who are participating in the Monroe County Agritourism project. This project, funded by the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority (GVRMA) and administered by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County, aims to develop agritourism by reconnecting farmers with the wider community, grow the public’s awareness of agriculture and increase farmers’ revenues.
The field trip was an opportunity for the farmers to visit an established and successful agritourism business. Becker Farms, in Gasport, NY, was founded in 1894 as a fruit and vegetable operation. About 25 years ago, the current owners began changing the farm’s focus to differentiate their business from others. Starting with U-pick apples, they began sharing their own on-farm experience with visitors. The instant success of the U-pick venture led to new attractions that were created by converting old farm buildings. Today you can enjoy their winery, brewery and beer garden, a “Fall Fiesta” barn with pumpkin patch, hayrides and even a petting zoo. The farm also has a number of spacious venues available for weddings and other functions. The latest addition to this list is a cidery that uses apples from the farm’s orchards.
Given the diversity of the agritourism selection, Becker Farms was the perfect spot for our group of farmers to visit. They met owners Melinda & Oscar Viscarra, who shared the story of their farm’s transformation. They also pointed out challenges associated with having public on their farm such as sufficient parking, rule enforcement and visitor safety. Despite challenges, they have plans for future expansion: construction of cottages for on-farm stays. Farmers also had a chance to observe Melinda hosting a group of kindergarteners and skillfully hold their attention with stories about the life on a farm.
On the ride home, the farmers shared their latest experience with excitement. Some planned to try out new activities on their farm, while others talked of expanding existing ones. Here are a few quotes from some of the participants:
“We very much we enjoyed the GVRMA field trip to Becker Farms today. It gave us a first-hand look at a farm venture that has successfully combined many of the aspects of agritourism that we learned about in the (GVRMA) program. It was very encouraging.” (Grace and Phil Durgin, Durgin Family Farm)
“Great field trip to Becker Farms! What an amazing operation they have. In terms of agritourism, that was the perfect place to visit. They are truly doing it all and having lots of success. Very inspiring!
“I thought the presentation was very well executed and relevant to our group. It didn’t seem as though we were in their way at all. I even liked the school age presentation that we were allowed to observe.
“Also, I do appreciate the van ride. It was very nice to chat with the other farmers on the way there and back. Please keep me in mind for the next one…” (Shane Camman, Camman Acres LLC)
The field trip was a success! It inspired the farmers, increased their confidence to explore and grow the agritourism potential of their own farms.
–Cornell Cooperative Extension Monroe County
For more articles out of New York, click here.