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Value-Added Agriculture Benefits Cities and Business

Regional agriculture can be fun, informative and a life saver!

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Living roof, vegetated roof, green roof for energy efficient building It's no secret that American imports more than it exports. What is lost in that sentence is that America exports most of its agricultural crops...and imports most of its food. That disconnect creates millions of miles of transportation emissions.

We can change that transportation balance by supporting local and regional agriculture whenever possible. The life cycle cost of what we pay for the goods needs to have transportations costs added for asthma health care, extreme weather events...and loss of air quality to realistically compare apples to apples.

That's what corporate social responsibility is about. Looking at the WHOLE story and making responsible choices.

California depends on agriculture for a major portion of our infrastructure -- food, raw materials for manufacturing, materials for clothing and even amenities such as wine and caviar. Many California farmers and ranchers have migrated to niche markets because major markets attract major international players who can ship goods into the US cheaper than we can make them here. Everyone knows that.

What not everyone knows is that companies can help stabalize California agriculture so that our national security is not compromised. So that our food supply during pandemics is not compromised. So that our people are grounded in the knowledge and skills related to working in the natural world. So that wildfires are part of planning. So that water quality matters in the design phase. So that recycling and composting are valued.

Local agriculture can be part of everyday purchasing and part of your "mojo"...part of your corporate personality, by including nature and agricultural elements in your employee programs.

Nature-based tourism, ecotourism or sometimes called recreation-based tourism, farms and agricultural operations can also include agri-tourism.

A study by the Outdoor Industry Foundation, 2006 estimates outdoor recreation contributes $730 billion annually to the U.S. economy. Since the majority of the general population may have little or no contact with agriculture, on-farm tourism is one way that city residents and non-farmers can learn about agriculture and, in turn, support farm products by increased purchases made directly or indirectly from family farms.

Companies can support their local and regional agricultural base through challenging times by providing employee benefits that tap the unique and high quality offerings of their local farm businesses.

  • Company tours of nearby agri-operations such as wineries or windfarms
  • Mini-farmers' markets on the company grounds to celebrate changing seasons or holidays (i.e. pumpkins, strawberries, or Christmas Trees)
  • Buy fresh or organic food for the company dining facility or catering.
  • Plan a tour that "source" your products...show employees how nature affects their daily work. For example...a tree farm that provides lumber or paper. A mining operation that provides aggregate or metal. A flower farm that provides landscape plantings.

And if your operations include agricultural components, think about starting an on-going "transparency" activity that supports your corporate social responsibility goals.

Alternative Enterprises and Agritourism: Farming for Profit and Sustainability Resource Manual, by the Natural Resource Conservation Service, 2004

This online manual contains 2,300 pages of reference material. It is divided into 20 chapters. Subjects covered include rural tourism, agritourism, nature tourism, heritage tourism, business planning, liability insurance, marketing, funding programs and resources. The manual is also available in CD or in a paper copy.

The University of California Small Farm Center provides research and support for niche agricultural programs focused on identifying opportunities and characteristics of potential agritourism visitors in California.

RESOURCES: Nature Based Agritourism

Edited by Carolyn Allen
| agriculture | tourism | employee program |

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