Agritourism is taking root in Oceanside

Agritourism is taking root in Oceanside
Josie Girling, age 7 of Oceanside, holds some just picked strawberries. Crops started in the Girling’s backyard will soon be part of Cyclops Farms. Photo by Promise Yee

OCEANSIDE — City and businesses efforts are coming together to launch agritourism efforts in Oceanside that will provide tactile farm experiences to visitors and locals.

Tracey Bohlen, city economic development manager, described agritourism as “something you can touch, taste, experience and buy.”

Possibilities range from taking a worm class to lean how to make fertilizer, to chefs pre-ordering vegetables from farmers to grow for future menu items, and farm-to-table dinners in which food is harvested, cooked and served on site. Bohlen added the business possibilities for farmers are endless.

“The farm-to-table experience is a big movement right now,” Bohlen said. “It’s a new way of thinking about tourism. I think it’s really going to take off.”

The Economic Development Department is in the process of drafting a RFP to hire a consultant to develop an agritourism strategic marketing plan.

Once a plan is developed Visit Oceanside will market agritourism in conjunction with other city promotional efforts.

Oceanside farmer Luke Girling attended a recent community meeting with fellow farmers and city staff to discuss the idea. He said the time is right for agritourism in Oceanside.

Girling just finished raising more than $15,000 in Kickstarter funds to begin his own urban farm on 2.5 acres in the Fire Mountain community. He said he has received a lot of support from chefs and food purveyors on the soon-to-open Cyclops Farms.

“I have seen there is a possibility and need for coastal farming,” Girling said.

Most Oceanside farms are located in the inland Morro Hills community. Crops include avocados, citrus, tomatoes, grapes and flowers.

Girling said he plans to grow organic row crops for restaurants, and add farm tours, farm-to-table dinners and student field trips to operations.

He said he wants to educate people about where their food comes from, how it’s grown, and show people that they can grow food in their own backyard on a small scale.

Girling has started crops in his home greenhouse to plant on the farm, and is currently breaking ground and preparing the acreage in Fire Mountain for farming. Cyclops Farms is expected to be up and running next month.

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