The tourism industry has seen a strong growth in people wanting to know where their food comes from and having a desire for authentic rural experiences. Nature has provided Eastern Oregon with all of the ingredients needed to meet that demand. Businesses interested in developing and marketing culinary and agricultural tourism for visitors now have the opportunity to work with tourism marketing professional Janet Dodson of Sunnyslope Marketing, LLC. Northeast Oregon Economic Development District (NEOEDD) engaged Dodson to work with businesses and tourism partners in Wallowa, Union, Baker, Umatilla and Morrow counties as part of a year-long agritourism development project.
Agritourism in Eastern Oregon includes a wide variety of visitor experiences and services such as lodging and camping on farms and ranches; agriculture tours; on-farm hunting and fishing; restaurants and events that feature local foods on the menu; local breweries, distilleries and wineries; and farmers markets, farm stands, pumpkin patches and corn mazes.
“Janet Dodson has a wealth of experience in tourism marketing and development in Eastern Oregon. She also comes from an agricultural background and is familiar with the hunger that visitors have to connect with authentic agriculture experiences and locally grown products,” says Sara Miller, NEOEDD Economic Development Specialist and project partner. Funding for the project is being provided by USDA Rural Development, Eastern Oregon Visitors Association and Travel Oregon.
“Many farmers and ranchers view tourism as a way to connect with people from urban areas,” says Dodson. “Many tourism businesses see an opportunity to expand their market by partnering with farms and ranches. And lots of people want to know more about how their food is produced or to experience the rural lifestyle. This project seeks to bring together those three sets of interests and make good things happen.”
One of Dodson’s first tasks will be organizing working groups in two tourism regions to help guide project activities and make connections to grow agritourism. Interested businesses and agriculture operators in Baker, Union and Wallowa counties are encouraged to join the Northeast Oregon working group. Those in Umatilla and Morrow counties are invited to become part of the Oregon’s Rugged Country working group.
In the spring, workshops will be offered to respond to the technical assistance and resource needs identified by the working groups and partners participating in the project. Dodson will also be reaching out to businesses throughout the five counties to inventory agriculture related products, experiences and services that should be marketed to visitors. She will assist the working groups to create plans to promote the unique offerings of each region and guide investment of funding earmarked for future marketing. Anyone interested in learning more or getting involved in the project is welcome to contact Dodson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-786-8006.