by Deron Johnston
Last time when I wrote about local food tourism, I gave you a glimpse of what could be possible if someone wanted to step forward and start a local food tour. However, it’s kind of a chicken before the egg scenario. A tour like that would be a lot of work, and the likelihood of success would be low. If the tour was part of a larger initiative that marketed, supported and organized all of the different moving parts of local food tourism, then it would stand a much better chance of being successful. What are some of these moving parts and what is a ‘larger initiative’? Let’s explore that.
On December 9, 2016, I went to the Leeds Agriculture Summit held in Landsdowne. The keynote speaker was Rebecca Mackenzie of the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance. During her presentation, she highlighted three examples of local food tourism initiatives in Ontario. She mentioned the Apple Pie Trail in the Collingwood/Blue Mountain area, the Oxford County Cheese Trail, and the Taste Trail, which is about three hours away from us in Prince Edward County. She talked specifically about the Taste Trail with some authority, as she was one of the founders of the organization that created the trail.
Rebecca stated that a good food tourism value chain (or system) needs to have the following elements:
Accommodations – a mix of places for people to spend at least three nights;
Attractions – historical, natural or geographical etc.;
Beverage producers – ciders, beer, wine etc.
Culinary learning opportunities – places to take cooking classes;
Farmers Markets – places for people to buy fresh produce, prepared foods and farm products;
Events – celebrations, festivals etc.;
Food Growers & Producers – farmers, backyard farmers etc.;
Restaurants – ones that cook food made at least partially from local ingredients;
Retailers – ones that sell and support local food;
Tours – different varieties of tours that don’t all have to be local food related.
Some of these elements we already have, but some need some work and some we simply don’t have. Rebecca said that you don’t have to have all of these elements, but you definitely should have a majority of them.
When putting together the original “Taste The County” organizing group (before it became the Taste Trail), more than 100 business people, residents, artists and government officials attended the initial community meeting about how to assemble an organization that could coordinate and market tourism in Prince Edward County. One of the first things that they set out to do (back in the 90’s) was to create a strategic plan to work from. This gave credibility to what they wanted to accomplish and helped them to apply for government funding to get their project off the ground.
“Taste The County” originally started with maple syrup and then, with the addition of the wineries that began popping up and a few other related businesses, they eventually changed the name to better reflect what they had to offer visitors. They’ve even developed an Arts Trail as well, for those who don’t focus all of their time on food and drink. In 2006, they determined that tourism contributed $100 million to the local economy.
One of the great things about working for the Ontario Culinary Tourism Authority, according to Rebecca, is that she gets to travel and help regions across the province develop food-based tourism. Her organization even has a fund of money to grant to organizations that want to create strategic plans to develop their own local food tourism project. Anyone know an organization that might be willing to apply for some money to help get local food tourism going in North Grenville?