The Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau (CVVB) and other local partners have taken a special interest in the preservation and sustainability of our agricultural land and how it can tie into the other top industry for PA, tourism. Ag tourism is a collection of ag-based attractions, events and services. This can include hands-on farm tours, seasonal corn mazes, pick-your-own orchards, downtown farmers markets, farm-to-table eateries, alpaca farms and many others to draw in visitors looking for unique experiences that resonate with families, school curriculums and tour groups.
Cumberland Valley contains some of the finest agricultural land in the country and not only is it one of the top industries for the area but one third of the land in the county is considered "Prime Farmland" according to the Natural Resource Conservation Service. According to the 2008 Census of Agriculture, the county had a total of $144.5 million in cash receipts from the sale of agricultural crops and livestock products.
One outlet for promoting the county's agricultural assets is to encourage the concept of "Buy Fresh Buy Local". The CVVB, Cumberland County Planning Department, Capital Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D) and Cumberland County Economic Development partnered together to create the Local Food, Farm & Outdoor Attractions Guide for Cumberland Valley. The guide was announced at a press event at the Farmers on the Square Market in Carlisle Wednesday, June 16, 2010. Representatives from the four partners, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and all three Cumberland County Commissioners were present for the announcement.
At the event CVVB Director of Tourism, Shireen Farr said, "We are committed to providing the visiting public the pleasure of experiencing our rich ag communities. We are also committed to the economic health of our farms and one sure way to allow our farms to be sustainable economic engines is to work with them on visitor readiness so that our farms can thrive as they diversify." The new guide will encourage this type of visitation through its combination of local food and farm attractions, outdoor recreation, fairs, festivals and events, museums, bed and breakfasts and campgrounds. It also includes a produce availability guide, Buy Fresh Buy Local foldout and a Cumberland Valley Map. Find a copy at Cumberland County Planning Department, CVVB, RC&D, Penn State Cooperative Extension Office, Cumberland County Conservation District, Cumberland County municipal offices and all listed locations.
This is not the only way the CVVB is supporting ag tourism. Recently the bureau launched a grant program funded by hotel tax dollars to support tourism initiatives. Of the seven applications that were funded, two were ag tourism related. The first was to Hayman Farms, who have committed over 40 acres of their farm to a Halloween Park. The CVVB will be partially funding the addition of a Pro Rodeo scheduled for September 17, 2010 and will work to support this program. The second was a grant for the Capital RC&D's application for the Third Annual Buy Fresh Bike Local event and a Geo-Bash, which will be a part of the Geo-Cache project that is being funded by the South Mountain Initiative. The bicycle ride is scheduled for August and the Geo-Bash for October 2010. The Geo-Bash event will kick-off the South Mountain Geo-Trail and offer geocachers a starting point to the new trail and invite them to discover the region.
The tourism industry generates over $900 million in direct spending and 12,500 jobs in Cumberland Valley. The commitment to the top two industries in the county, through active working partnerships, will fuel economic growth for the county and state as a whole. Cumberland Valley is part of Pennsylvania's Dutch Country Roads region, the number one visited region in PA, supporting 143,508 jobs and $2.5 billion in wages regionally. Spending by travelers in Dutch Country Roads totaled $6.54 billion in 2007.
The mission of the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau is to promote Cumberland Valley as a tourist destination, attract visitors to the area, enhance the visitor's experience, and to encourage and promote overnight stays.