Consultant presents agritourism strategy for Vacaville

November 03 2017

By Jessica Rogness, The Reporter

Posted: 11/02/17, 7:10 PM PDT | Updated: 6 hrs ago

Agritourism is becoming a draw to certain destinations, and Vacaville is poised to provide that experience for visitors, according to a consultant working on such a strategy for the city.

Carl Ribaudo, president of Strategic Marketing Group Consulting, presented Thursday an agritourism plan he has been working on to farmers and representatives from Vacaville and Solano County.

The plan, developed from Ribaudo’s interviews with stakeholders including farmers, is designed to be a road map for Visit Vacaville to build a strong agritourism program for the city.

Vacaville already has many good agricultural and tourism assets and should incorporate both, he said, including an authentic experience.

“You guys have a long and storied past in the history of agriculture,” Ribaudo said.

Farmers are incorporating tourism nowadays because they need to generate additional profits, diversify their business and fully utilize all their resources.

Bringing in visitors is also a distribution channel, because products can be sold directly to the consumer.

On the consumer side, agritourism is becoming popular because of recent trends, including the “locavore” movement, concerns about health, obesity and wellness and a desire to support local farmers.

“The key is actually getting somebody to visit a farm,” he said, to pick a crop or talk to a farmer. The connection with the person behind the farm is essential.

Ribaudo said his speciality is in analyzing the competitiveness of tourism destinations, and agritourism would give Vacaville something unique to talk about.

“Tourism has become a ruthless industry in this state,” after the recession, he said.

He lives in South Lake Tahoe and has driven up and down Interstate 80 for years. He knows where the Eddie Bauer outlet is, but did not know Vacaville had a downtown or farms right outside the city limits.

Vacaville can angle itself to be known by outsiders not just for the Premium Outlets, but for agriculture and special events, he said.

“You have to be interesting now ... a lot of destinations in California have a lot of the same things,” he said.

If they want to do this, Ribaudo made several recommendations detailed in his plan.

Overall, he proposes that Vacaville position itself as the central hub for visitors looking to enjoy the agritourism experience.

To do that, Visit Vacaville would need to promote agritourism, the local government would need to enable it with policies and ordinances and farmers need to integrate.

If one piece falls off, this system won’t work, Ribaudo said.

Some other recommendations were to work with Slow Food Solano, and have Visit Vacaville absorb Solano Grown for the short term so they can turn it into a sub-brand.

Ribaudo also recommended the farmers of Pleasants Valley organize the way the Suisun Valley Vintners and Growers Association did.

Roger King, a Suisun Valley winegrower who Ribaudo has been working with on this strategy, said the association was able to work as an advocacy group and get what they needed from Fairfield and the county.

The group of Pleasants Valley farmers should develop a brand and work together to get the county to perform special study planning for their region, according to Ribaudo.

He urged the city and the farmers to try again to work together.

“New ideas are what drive tourism,” he said.