Even before COVID-19, there was a trend among consumers to buy local foods, create at-home gardens and support family farmers. More people were turning to local farms and producers for their products. As the prolonged effects of the pandemic continue, supply chains are still unreliable and the public has a desire to support a more local food and fiber system.
The trend heightened in 2020 to include connecting with the land, experiencing family friendly outdoor activities and learn about local consumable products. It continues to this day. In response, more tourism organizations have been turning to authentic experiences like agritourism. Several community organizations expressed the desire to have a farm loop in Yamhill County.
Benefits of a farm loop include selling products and creating experiences directly for consumers, which may help farms add additional revenue streams to their business. Besides adding to a farmer’s financial stability, agritourism activities can also employee additional family members, help with farm succession, educate the public about farming practices, and provide local food to the community.
In response to this gap, Audrey Comerford, Oregon State University Extension Service’s agritourism specialist, served as a convenor for the Willamette Valley Visitors Association and partners to launch a farm loop in Yamhill County. Other local tourism partners that supported the implementation of a local farm loop include Visit McMinnville and Taste Newberg, with statewide support from Travel Oregon. The Oregon Agritourism Partnership, which houses the Oregon Farm Loop program, provided the farm loop framework and outreach to the farms in Yamhill County. The county provides the map for both printed materials and online use.
Comerford, the agritourism coordinator for Yamhill, Marion and Polk counties, helped with farm outreach. These responsibilities included:
- Gathering lists of farms to contact.
- Identifying the feel of the community.
- Designing materials for online and print.
- Distributing brochures and market the program.
The Yamhill Farm Loop opened in summer of 2021, six months after it was conceived. It completes the Willamette Valley’s coverage of food and farm trails, joining the Farmlandia Farm Loop, the South Clackamas Farm Loop, the Marion Farm Loop, the Great Oaks Food Trail, the Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail and the South Willamette Valley Food Trail.
The Yamhill Farm Loop consists of 10 farms with a variety of products including fruits, vegetables, wine, alpacas, pasture-raised meat, fiber, baked goods, jams, olive oil and lavender. The agritourism activities offered on the loop include tastings, tours, farm stays, harvest festivals, farm stores, farm-to-table dinners and display gardens.
Both tourists and locals can find the program through an interactive website as well as printed brochures and on social media. The Yamhill Farm Loop is expected to grow in members and popularity in 2022.