| ||A pair of upcoming hands-on workshops will lead participants through a multitude of topics directed at farm direct marketers. The workshops will be led by Mark Saunders and Angela Grant of Saunders Farm in Ontario, an operation that redefined what a family farm can be. Saunders says the farm was originally a strawberry U-pick operation, and in its 40 plus years of operation has welcomed over one million guests.
“We now grow pumpkins, some corn, some wheat and a small vegetable crop for our on-farm catering,” he says. Saunders Farm is open six months of the year (six days a week in the summer) and host weddings, company picnics, run education programs, a children’s farm camp, have a walk-up restaurant and do farm to table dinners.
But what Saunders Farm is most recognized for is their Haunting Season, a six-week long, weekends only festival.
“The event now welcomes nearly 60,000 people each year. We’ve built the largest collection of hedge mazes in the world, and hundreds of groups, school tours, and companies visit our farm to play, learn, and grow,” he says.
Saunders says he will be sharing his experiences and providing tools at the workshop that participants can take away and start building their own products right away. “One of the first things I learned is it’s ok to charge admission and if you want to make a business out of it, you have to continually look for new ideas and add new attractions in ways to connect with customers,” he says.
Other topics at the workshop include customer service, staff management and training, pricing for profit and sustainability, marketing, and products, such as farm dinners and events.
The AgriTourism and Farm Direct Marketing workshops are February 23 in Leduc and February 24 in Airdrie. To register call 1-800-387-6030.
Colin Gosselin, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry