Another agritourism program sprouts up
The agritourism program developed by Yuma Visitors Bureau showcases Yuma's winter vegetable bounty. The schedule includes:
• Farmer to Farmer technical tours for those with a background in agriculture — Jan. 15, Feb. 19
• Field to Feast tours where visitors harvest the veggies that go into their lunch — Jan. 16, 17, 23, 24, 26, 30, 31; Feb. 6, 7, 9, 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28; March 6, 7.
• Savor Yuma culinary tours featuring hands-on cooking classes combining local produce with border sabor (flavor) — Jan. 10, 22; Feb. 5, 21; March 5, 28.
Tickets are available at the Yuma Information Center at the Yuma Crossing Quartermaster Depot or call 1-800-293-0071.
In addition, local date groves offer group tours by advance arrangement. For more information, call 1-800-293-0071 or browse the Visitors Guide at www.visityuma.com.
Yuma residents know that as summer turns to fall, the fields turn green with crops of lettuce, broccoli and other vegetables that feed the nation throughout the winter months.
But many visitors are intrigued at the sight that has earned Yuma the title of the winter lettuce capital of the world. In fact, agriculture is the leading industry here, with its $3.2 billion annual output making up more than a third of the total for the state.
To showcase this bounty, Yuma Visitors Bureau has developed an agritourism program featuring Field to Feast tours, Farmer to Farmer technical tours and Savor Yuma culinary tours. For the past two years, these popular activities have sold out, leaving visitors and residents wanting more.
In response, another more extensive program, Yuma's Agri-University, is sprouting this year. The program, aimed at Yuma's sun-loving extended-stay visitors, includes five weeks of seminars with a field trip and culinary class.
The program is already catching the eye of folks beyond Yuma. It is being featured in the January issue of Sunset magazine, thanks to local writer Molly Blake, who pitched a story to the editor when she learned about the uniqueness of the program and the unusual classroom and field opportunities.
Agri-U will be offered in two sessions from Jan. 7 to Feb. 9 and Feb. 11 to March 15.
Ten educational seminars, sponsored by the Arizona Western College, will take place from 9 to 11 a.m. Mondays at the AWC 3C Building. Topics will range from soils to seeds to immigration issues and how they affect the area's produce industry. Featured speakers will be leaders in the local agriculture industry and from AWC and the University of Arizona.
The culinary demonstration class will take place at Tina's Cocina, 645 S. 2nd Ave. Chefs Tina Clark and Alex Trujillo will provide cooking demos using locally grown ingredients and include one specialty crop provided by Foxy Produce.
A behind-the-scenes Feed the Nation field trip will be hosted by Bobbi McDermott, a retired agriculture and water specialist, and include information about how the vegetables get from the fields to the retailers.
To register for Agri-U, stop by the Yuma Visitor Information Center in the Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park or download the registration form from www.visityuma.com and mail to Yuma Visitors Bureau, 202 S. 1st Ave., Yuma, AZ 85364. Cost is $150 and includes a free ticket to Yuma Lettuce Days Culinary Festival.
Yuma Lettuce Days is a homegrown festival with culinary flair that's earned a Governor's Tourism Award as the state's best special event. Held at the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park March 9-10, Lettuce Days will feature celebrity chefs, cooking demonstrations and contests, red-hot ice carvers, a farmers market, salad bar and a tasting event showcasing local restaurants.
Putting the focus on food is a crowd-pleaser, said Kristan Sheppeard, YVB's agritourism consultant and the festival's main organizer.
“Not everyone is interested in the horticultural details about how to grow spinach, but most folks love to eat. And if we get them in with that as an ‘appetizer,' they'll also end up digesting a lot of information about our local agriculture industry and how important Yuma County is to feeding the nation.
“Have extra time and want to see if you can squeeze in a session with Agri-U? Call 376-0100 three days in advance of any educational seminar, field trip or culinary class and we will try to fit you in. A la carte prices are $15 for a seminar, $55 for the field trip and $25 for the culinary class.”
More information about Agri-U can be found at www.visityuma.com or by calling 1-800-293-0071 or 1-928-783-0071.