'Are you crazy?' agritourism bus tour set for July 9-10

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State Extension and Ohio State Extension are teaming up to offer a novel look at retail farm markets and agritourism businesses this summer in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.

Titled the "Are You Crazy? Tour," the event is scheduled for July 9-10 and will include eight farms that operate successful local farm markets and entrepreneurial agricultural businesses.

The focus will be on marketing strategies at each location, said Veronica Malencia, SCA Green Cities Fellow at Penn State Extension in Allegheny County. Participants will get a chance to tour farms, farm markets and agritourism businesses and to learn about what has made these entities successful.

Malencia said participants will learn a little about all facets of agritourism endeavors, including seasonal and year-round produce, food preparation and service, tourism, entertainment, and educational programs.

"We will present the concepts and offer opportunities for peer networking and sharing to make the experience more personal," she said. "Our hope is that attendees will pick up valuable ideas that they can implement at their own farm market or food business."

The bus tour's whimsical "Are You Crazy?" name refers to the timing of the event -- in the middle of the busy summer growing season, Malencia explained. "So the question we are asking is: 'Are you crazy enough to leave your farm and business during peak season to join us on this tour?'

"And our response is: 'Take advantage of this opportunity, it'll be worthwhile.'"

Agritourism is essentially an educational tool for the agriculture industry, she said. It brings people to farms and food businesses and teaches them how agriculture fits into their daily lives.

"It's an up-close view of the agricultural world, which gives the viewers an idea of how farms operate, what the food-production process is like and how people actually get their food -- from farm to fork."

The tour will show the effort farm owners make every day to ensure healthy produce and livestock. When consumers see clean, careful agricultural operations, they are more inclined to buy locally than from a convenience store, Malencia contended. Agritourism, done properly, offers an enjoyable look into a farmer's life and provides valuable information on the origins of the foods we eat.

The western Pennsylvania-eastern Ohio bus tour is modeled after the "Are You Crazy" tours that Penn State Extension has hosted in eastern Pennsylvania in recent years.

"They have been very successful by offering attendees valuable learning opportunities, especially through peer learning and knowledge sharing," Malencia said. "We heard from past tour participants that they gained a lot from the experience, especially from the conversations they had with cohorts along the way.

"So we thought it was time give folks in western Pennsylvania this opportunity as well."

The tour will begin at Giant Eagle's flagship Market District store in Robinson, Pa., then make its way north to see a few family-owned farms, old-fashioned village shops, wineries and gardens. Throughout both days, attendees will have the opportunity to explore what has made these participating businesses successful.

Costs are $210 per person (for a double-occupancy room) and $255 per person (for a single occupancy). The price includes transportation, overnight accommodations at Hampton Inn Meadville, six meals, all snacks, wine tasting and all tours.

The four buses will depart from Penn State Extension's Allegheny County office, at 400 N. Lexington Avenue, Pittsburgh, where there is free overnight vehicle parking in a secure lot. For more information, contact Tawnesha Anderson at 412-473-2540 or by email at tea3@psu.edu.

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Last Updated June 29, 2012