The Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) of Chatham, Durham, Johnston, Orange, and Wake counties have teamed up to launch TriangleGrown, a website showcasing the area’s agriculturally based features that are visitor friendly – part of the growing national trend known as agritourism.
The site helps make visiting farms and food producers easier. Many of the businesses featured have a strong commitment to using locally produced foods, which is enticing to the region’s growing ‘foodie’ population who seeks to participate and learn more about how food is grown and produced.
“When people visit a farm, there is almost nothing left to the abstract about from where their food comes,” says Dave Artigues, the owner of Elodie Farms in northern Durham County. “That sort of connection to the source makes people more informed and thoughtful consumers, and that’s important for many reasons,” he added. Artigues’ 21-acre farm produces pork, fowl, eggs, produce, and is most noted for its artisan goat cheeses. It is among the most popular destination farms in Durham because it also hosts a series called “Dinner on the Porch” where some of the area’s most noted chefs cook for up to 70 diners.
Promotion and marketing are among the top challenges farms face when starting or extending their agritourism programs, according to a report from NC State University’s Tourism Extension program. By collaborating to launch this site, the DMOs’ goal is to extend the marketing reach of individual agritourism attractions to the entire region, which encourages daytrip visits.
Additional research shows that many visitors to agritourism features also participate in other activities during their visit, indicating the possibility for extending these day trips into longer stays. “This endeavor amplifies our messages about Chatham County’s agritourism offerings from scenic beauty to farm-to-fork eateries,” said Neha Shah, Director of the Pittsboro-Siler City CVB.
The two largest communities involved have perspectives on why their places are great spots of visitors interested in agritourism that are as unique as the destinations themselves.
Shelly Green, who heads Durham’s DMO, sees the county’s culinary wow-factor and its status as 17th smallest in the state as pluses.
“As home of The Tastiest Town in the South, Durham County has bountiful offerings for visitors interested in getting to the source of great food,” Green said. “The urban core and agricultural spaces are close to one another here, which make Durham an easy place for visitors to go from farm to fork in a short time, or repeatedly over several days.”
Raleigh sees a union between that community’s natural space and beauty as being a major draw.
“A common way people describe the Raleigh area is ‘a park with a city in it’ due to the vast number of green spaces within Wake County,” said Denny Edwards, president and CEO of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Having an abundance of open space has created a wealth of opportunities to introduce visitors to agritourism including world-class gardens, historic sites, some of the largest agricultural special events in the state, the State Farmers Market, as well as craft breweries and restaurants which focus on local and regional sourcing for their offerings.”
The new website features top events and attractions for the five-county region, as well as suggested itineraries for a day trip to each of the five counties. It links to the primary visitor websites for each DMO for information on hundreds of additional events and activities, including:
• restaurants, bakeries and breweries that embody the farm-to-fork principle,
• markets that specialize in locally-produced goods,
• nurseries and public gardens that allow visitors to get back to nature,
• food tours and trails that highlight the farm-to-fork (or grape-to-glass, or plow-to-pint) journey,
• events that celebrate and showcase producers, and
• farms producing things like fruits and vegetables, as well as proteins, dairy and sundries that offer a more enriched experience than just shopping at a local farmers’ market.
Fall is a busy season for agritourism features and events in the Triangle. Visitors and residents alike enjoy numerous you-pick pumpkin patches and corn mazes that crop up annually, and approximately one million people flock to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh each year. Durham is home to the original World Beer Festival, featuring more than 400 world-class beers from more than 150 different breweries from around the world, and Chapel Hill’s annual Pepper Festival celebrates pepper-related local food and drink. The Benson Mule Days Festival in Johnston County has been a Southern tradition for over 60 years, and Boyette Family Farm in Clayton is one of several “haunted” attractions throughout the region in October. Information about these events and more can be found at www.TriangleGrown.com.
The juxtaposition of urban and rural features and attractions in the Research Triangle Area of North Carolina offers a wide range of agritourism experiences. Those can now be easily accessed and explored online with current and accurate information on the TriangleGrown.com website. The tag #TriangleGrown will be used in ongoing promotions for this site and related activities in social media.