Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ag Ambassador Making Suisun Valley a 'Must-See' Destination

Ag Ambassador Making Suisun Valley a 'Must-See' Destination
By Ines Bebea

SUISUN VALLEY - Buy fresh, buy local. That's how the Suisun Valley Fund Advisory Committee is preparing to brand and market the myriad produce from the 10,000 acres in Suisun Valley.

With agro-tourism as its selling point along with a dash of family friendly activities, Tracy Ellison, the agricultural ambassador for the Suisun Valley Fund Advisory Committee, is embarking on a campaign to make Suisun Valley a must-see destination. The Suisun Valley Fund Advisory Committee was organized by the City of Fairfield and the Solano Irrigation District to assist with preserving the agricultural lands of Suisun Valley.

"The selling points for the Suisun Valley are varied," Ellison said during a tour of the valley Tuesday. "Because we are unknown, we can become a place to be discovered. Secondly, we offer family friendly atmosphere and activities, and third, (we have) fresh produce that is grown locally."

In addition to attracting visitors to the area, another challenge for many of the farmers is making the farms profitable so the next generation can continue the tradition of family owned farms, Ellison said.

"We have to find a way to allow the farmers to make a profit," said Ellison. "You have places like El Dorado, Apple Hill, and Sonoma where the agro-tourism has benefited their economy. There is no reason why we can't have that here."

Through agro-tourism, farms are opened to the public for activities such as art and crafts, opportunities to harvest your own produce, wine tasting and stands for farmers to sell their products on their property or through collaborative fruits or vegetable stands.

Suisun Valley will host Fun Family Farm Days in August, September and October.

"Events like that give people in urban areas a chance to see what farm life is like," said Ellison. "Napa has a history of 20 to 30 years of wine-tasting tours. What we have are new things to do and to discover."

Inside The Vegetable Patch on Rockville Road in Suisun Valley - which is open seven days a week all year - you can see what the valley has to offer. For Doug and Doreen Lum, who have run the store since 2003 after moving from their location on Abernathy Road, the future is uncertain.

"The valley is struggling in all aspects," Doug Lum said. "And on top of that, most farmers are 50 and older and many young people don't want to be involved in the business."

If county regulations about commercial activities and land use were relaxed, farmers could make a lot more money, Lum said.

"We want the trend for the valley for people to buy local," he added. "If there are enough of us left, it could be profitable."

Reach Ines Bebea at 427-6934 or


Solano County's top five crops by value 2005:
Nursery stock $50,018,000
Cattle and calves $27,203,000
Alfalfa $26,603,000
Tomatoes, processing $19,112,000
Walnuts $16,467,000
Source: Solano County Farm Bureau

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