By Racquel Muncy, Skagit Valley Herald
During the fall, it’s easy to see that agritourism is alive and well in Skagit County.
Agritourism gives people the experience of being on a farm and offers revenue for a farm that attracts visitors for education or entertainment.
Skagit Acres is holding a Harvest Festival on fall weekends. Usually held at their sister location, Tulip Town, things can get a bit hectic there with the tulip bulbs being planted this time of year, says Kristen Keltz, CEO of Skagit Acres and Spinach Bus Ventures. Having purchased pumpkins from a local farm for this year’s festivities, the hope for next year is to grow the Harvest Festival so Skagit Acres has its own pumpkins and a corn maze.
Skagit Acres and Tulip Town are both owned by Spinach Bus Ventures, which has the mission of promoting, preserving and creating economic development for those in the agricultural sector in Skagit County.
Agritourism aids in this mission.
While agritourism is prominently displayed this time of year with pumpkin patches and corn mazes, Spinach Bus Ventures Managing Partner Rachael Ward Sparwasser said it goes beyond just these autumn months.
“I think agritourism is important all year,” she says.
Skagit Acres has the Harvest Festival and allows visitors to have their pictures taken with Santa in its greenhouse in the winter. And Tulip Town is a prominent part of the Skagit Valley in the spring.
Now Spinach Bus Ventures is trying to formulate summeragritourism ideas.
Sparwasser says agritourism not only help farms, but can help other businesses, such as hotels and restaurants.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, not only did local farms miss out on agritourism opportunities, but the county lost millions of dollars in tax revenue, Sparwasser says.
Sondra Zieber started B&Z Farms when her family bought the property just outside of Sedro-Woolley three years ago. This fall, the farm is complete with pumpkins, pigs and a spooky barn.
When Zieber and her husband bought the property, which was a dairy farm more than two decades ago, county staff told them that in order to not change the zoning to residential they’d have to find a way to make a certain amount of profit off the land.
B&Z Farm serves as a small second income, Zieber says. “It doesn’t do bad, it pays for itself.”
The past two years, Zieber donated pumpkins to schools, since schools were not doing field trips. This year, the spring was too wet and the summer too dry, which kept the farm from producing as many pumpkins as expected.
Zieber also uses the farm to help others with their small business endeavours, welcoming a handful of small businesses set up booths on the weekends to sell their wares.
She’s constantly thinking of new things to add. This year, there was the addition of a 100-year-old boat for children to play on, and a spooky barn, which Zieber describes as a “cheesy-mom-corny spook house.”
Next year, she wants to add in a hay ride.
“I’ve always had a massive Halloween obsession, so this fits perfect,” Zieber says.
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