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The History of the C&GI Project

Renewing the Countryside (RT

John Knisley of Alternative Roots Farm in Madelia MN

C) is a non-profit organization with a mission to strengthen rural areas by championing and supporting rural communities, farmers, and others who are renewing the countryside through sustainable and innovative initiatives, businesses, and projects. In 2015 RTC decided to live out its mission by bolstering support for farmers interested in potentially diversifying into agritourism through on-farm food service in Minnesota and Wisconsin through the Come & Get It! (C&GI) project.

For those unfamiliar with the term “agritourism,” you can think of it as a marriage between agriculture and tourism - offering unique opportunities for visitors to experience events on farms and ranches.

This project started as a partnership between RTC, The Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA), and Farm Commons and received funding initially through MISA and then a North Central SARE Farm Partnership grant and currently a Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) grant. C&GI has three clear objectives:

  • Give farmers training and assistance to offer on-farm events and increase agritourism in the state

  • Create creative and strategic marketing campaigns to bring more people to on-farm events

  • Expand online tools to help consumers easily find on-farm, food-centered agritourism opportunities.

Many Midwesteners love going to pizza farms, wineries, farm-to-table dinners, and farm tours but don’t know how much work goes into planning and hosting on-farm events. Additionally, many farmers would like to welcome more people to their farms but aren’t sure where to begin.

Over the last eight years RTC’s C&GI project has provided customized technical assistance and networking opportunities to farmers interested in agritourism to help them navigate local regulations, branding, marketing, as well as business planning. Over the years RTC has developed resources like the five-part C&GI publication offering over 120 pages of industry advice. Now in 2023, C&GI in partnership with the University of Minnesota, developed an agritourism course, detailing the how-tos, regulations, and logistics of hosting on-farm food service events. This is the only training of its kind in the nation. Through this course, RTC is directly supporting nine teams composed of farmers and food advocates who are developing unique on-farm festivals. These on-farm events will feature local farmers and food makers, fun kids activities, and educational elements to help attendees understand the value of purchasing local food. Events will create a one-day revenue stream, and connect local farmers to ongoing individual and wholesale customers. The ultimate goal is that these events will generate more avenues to purchase local food, build customer loyalty, and strengthen rural communities.

The first on farm event will be held on July 23rd at Alternative Roots Farm in Madelia MN. Stay tuned for more information about RTC’s C&GI project and explore the events page of our website to find an on-farm event near you!

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