A countywide promotional campaign — Happy Valley Agventures — is turning competitors into partners in an effort to enhance tourism, agriculture and give a new reason for people to visit Centre County.
The Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County launched the countywide agritourism campaign at the Grange fairgrounds on Wednesday. CPCVB President and CEO Fritz Smith and CBICC President and CEO Vern Squier were joined by elected officials, local business owners, community members and agricultural stakeholders with the hope that marrying two of Centre County’s largest industries will benefit residents and visitors alike.
“For travelers who are increasingly looking for authentic experiences, agritourism is an ideal fit,” Smith said.
Last year, the CPCVB and CBICC announced a joint agritourism committee that would explore ways to promote and support the two industries. Smith said agritourism is a buzz word that’s used across the country, but after spending months canvassing and researching campaigns, he said the committee was “a little underwhelmed” by what other counties were doing.
“We didn’t see a lot of people doing it well,” he said. “We looked at websites. We scoured brochures. We looked all over the country. A lot of people use the words, but we really wanted to take that concept and bring it to life.”
Community involvement, Fritz said, is key to the campaign’s success.
“Every individual benefits from agriculture in some way,” Squier said. “We also think of agriculture as an economic development driver ... that really opens up a whole new thought process about what agriculture means, what we can do to help agriculture grow and expose the elements that are already here.”
Community connection is “at the heart of food, ag and natural resource entrepreneurship,” said Jim Ladlee, Penn State Extension assistant director of energy, business and community vitality programs. Ladlee said agritourism is at the cutting edge of agricultural diversification and represents “a real opportunity to farm with a community.”
“Unbiased research (and) factual information that is taken beyond the university walls is what we’re all about,” Ladlee said. “It’s been transformative if you think about the quality and quantity of food now available around the world and here in the United States.”
The campaign website — happyvalleyagventures.com — will contain information about offerings and events put on by local businesses. Mark Dello Stritto, partner and president of creative at 321 Blink, said businesses that partner with the program will be provided with signage that will let consumers know they are contributing to this initiative.
With a number of definitions of agritourism, Smith said the campaign aims to promote local agriculture and businesses, including distilleries, cideries and brewing companies.
Kevin Lloyd, Big Spring Spirits co-owner and production manager, said he wanted to purchase key ingredients — corn, wheat and rye — from local farmers. When he was in the process of planning the physical operation six years ago, there wasn’t a resource to make that possible.
With the agritourism campaign, Lloyd said buying local will be easier and more convenient for consumers.
“We are partnered together, moving forward and helping each other,” Lloyd said, speaking about his partnership with a local farm.
Owner of Tait Farm Foods Kim Tait said Centre County has a lot to offer residents and visitors as far as entertainment, food and drink. From wine walks, tastings and tours, she sees agritourism as an opportunity to attract visitors and connect them with local attractions.
“Let’s be inclusive,” said Kim Tait, owner of Tait Farm Foods. “Let include everyone. Let’s celebrate everyone because it creates a big diversity of opportunity for people who come here.”
Products and photos used on the website, Dello Stritto said, will come directly from Centre County businesses. Because the campaign was scheduled to kick-start at the beginning of fall, Dello Stritto said it made sense to photograph local products and advertise fall events with the slogan “Autumn Happens Here.”
“We’re under no pretense ... that we’re here to somehow cause agriculture to happen. We certainly are not,” Squier said. “We’re here to promote it and to acknowledge the importance of agriculture.”