Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cut-your-own Trees, workshops, zoning

Cut-your-own Christmas trees are making a comeback in Massachusetts, according to Amy Bracken of the Boston Globe. Even when the cut-your-own trees cost far more than the Canadian pines sold by large retailers, demand for locally-grown trees outstrips supply. One reason is that freshly cut trees stay green for months, while older pre-cut trees quickly lose their needles. Another is that people enjoy the cut-your-own farm experience. To quote from the article:
Tree farmer Sighle Philbin explained the attraction this way: “When you take your child [to a tree farm], that might be the only farm experience they’ll ever have. How many dairy farms are left in Massachusetts?’’
But Philbin goes on to say:
Even with the rise in popularity, tree farming in Massachusetts is not making people rich. “It would be more profitable to sell off the land to developers.’’
For other cut-your-own Christmas tree articles, check out:

Ag Secretary Kicks off Christmas Tree Season, about Christmas tree farms in New Jersey.
Farms grow memories along with trees, from the Des Moines Register.

Mark Howell (right) walks with his father Mark Howell among trees at the Howell Tree Farm near Cumming, Ia. on Dec. 3, 2009. The tree farm is in its second generation.

Workshop notices and opportunities for agritourism farms

There will be an agritourism workshop at Clemson University, SC, on January 6.

The CT Department of Agriculture is offering a new brochure program for agritourism farms. A freestanding agritourism brochure rack will be dedicated to each of the state's five major Welcome Centers. Farmers who wish to have their brochures included on the rack must sign up for the program by January 19, 2010.

Here's a great rundown of Arkansas Agritourism by the Rockefeller Institute. The Institute will be hosting a three-day retreat called The Nature of Agritourism: Exploring Nature Tourism and Birding as a Business on February 19-21, 2010.

The annual Florida AGRIitunity Conference will be held on January 23, 2010. The educational program will feature a Central Florida producer and chef that focuses on grass fed beef and poultry production along with agritourism.

The University of Florida Extension has come out with a new report called Potential Impacts of Agritourism in South Miami-Dade County. Whether or not you are interested in Florida, the report has a good overview of agritourism, and cites examples of successful agritourism networks elsewhere in the country.

Zoning and land use

Portland, OR is known for its green urban planning practices, including an Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) that restricts sprawl by concentrating urban development. Yet the city is growing, and might find a million or so people adding to the population within the next 25 years. The town of Helvetia, renowned for its agritourism and rural recreation opportunities, is facing new pressure. Planners are considering expanding the UGB to include the town. Hopefully Portland's growth does not endanger the character of the city's rural outskirts.

Squamish and Whistler, BC, are also trying to work out a Regional Growth Strategy. The Squamish Climate Action Network has spearheaded an initiative to grow more food in the district. And in the nearby Pemberton Valley, local farmers, residents, consultants, and officials are identifying strengths and challenges of Valley agriculture, with the aim to develop a Pemberton Valley Agricultural Area Plan. As elsewhere, one of the major challenges facing agriculture is the high land cost of land in the face of development. Other challenges include, to quote the article:
“The lack of respect for farmers and agriculture,” the absence of local plant and animal processing, limited local agricultural diversity and challenging farm economics.

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