OCEANSIDE — Over 100 attended the agritourism workshop aimed to help farmers understand agritourism options within current zoning, and encourage them to dream big about business potential.
Leslee Gaul, president and CEO of Visit Oceanside Conference and Visitors Bureau, said commercial farmers who rely on agriculture to support their families are under tremendous pressure to sell or develop their land. Regulations and other obstacles are making it difficult to continue family farming.
“It’s getting too expensive to farm,” Gaul said.
Twenty different farms were represented at the workshop held by Visit Oceanside, with assistance from the city Economic Development Department Jan. 31.
All in attendance seemed to be on board with developing agritourism.
“The audience felt optimistic about the opportunity that agritourism could provide as way for farmers to sustain their way of life while maintaining South Morro Hills as an agricultural region,” Gaul said.
Farmers present were at various stages of implementing agritourism businesses.
Owners of the successful Beach House Winery were in attendance, as well as owners of Paradise Falls wedding venue, and the soon to reopen Blue Heron bed and breakfast.
“There was a lot of great content throughout the day and it was exciting to see the level of engagement we did by the farmers and residents,” Gaul said.
Residents made up the majority of those who attended the workshop. They expressed concerns about the future of sewer, traffic and roadways. In particular they had questions about connecting lower and upper Wilshire Road, and connecting Sleeping Indian Road.
Gaul said, all in all, residents were supportive of agritourism, and said they would like to see more wineries, breweries and bed and breakfasts.
All were in agreement agritourism is viable in Oceanside.
“We are in an experience economy,” Gaul said. “They (consumers, especially millennials) want to spend their money on unique and local experiences. They want their families to get back to nature and enjoy open space as well as have authentic experiences.”
The market is ripe for what Oceanside already does well.
“Authentic experiences are an important part of Oceanside’s personality, they are inherent to who we are as a community,” Gaul said.
There is also a growing consumer trend to know where your food comes from, and meaning in it being locally sourced.
Gaul said Oceanside is seeing success in its vibrant farm to table dining scene, with Cyclops Farms providing a lot of fruits and vegetables for local restaurants.
The urban farm is located on the coast. The next steps are to look at how to create synergy between coastal and inland agritourism businesses, as well as how to tie in an educational component.
Oceanside has set aside $150,000 to support agritourism development. Last year an Agritourism Strategic Plan was established.
This year Tier 1 recommendations from the plan are being implemented, including holding a series on workshops.
Other Tier 1 recommendations include branding the South Morro Hills region, and developing education resources for farmers.
Future Tier 2 recommendations include creating a vision plan, and conducting a financial feasibility study of water and sewer upgrades, road improvements and retail development.
“It is difficult to say how large this industry can grow at this stage in the process,” Gaul said. “For Oceanside to truly realize its potential, a Community Vision Plan is needed for South Morro Hills.”
Gaul said the Tier 2 step of creating a vision plan would help determine what could be done in South Morro Hills. As well as help calculate the job potential and tax dollars that could be generated from agritourism.