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Agritourism summit tackles challenges, opportunities


By KELSEY THALHOFER



For the Capital Press



CORVALLIS, Ore. -- State and county policymakers will meet March 1 to discuss challenges and opportunities facing Oregon's agritourism business owners.



The meeting is the second of the two-part Oregon Agritourism Summit, will be held at the LaSells Stewart Center at Oregon State University from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.



The event costs $35 and includes lunch. Registration information can be found online at the Oregon State University Extension Small Farms website.



It's the first time this type of event has been held in Oregon, a state where culinary tourism is booming and farmstays are filling up months in advance. Organizers hope the summit will become a yearly event to help break barriers to agritourism and expand the state's growing and largely untapped market.



"I'm really optimistic that we'll come out of this with the beginnings of a policy agenda," Kathi Jaworski of Travel Oregon said.



Jaworski, part of the summit's planning committee, is crafting one of four case studies that will be presented at the summit. The studies are a compilation of real situations, designed to put farmer and regulator challenges into perspective. "We're really trying to stimulate problem solving," Jaworski said.



The first part of the summit, which took place last fall, was focused on farmers and agritourism business owners and brought many of their concerns to light. Some expressed dismay at the layers of county and state policies facing Oregon agribusinesses, while others balked at the irony of how difficult legally serving food on a farm can be.



The March summit is designed to communicate these concerns to policymakers, but also to clarify regulatory issues for farmers. The day will feature panels of state, county and agritourism leaders, as well as a dialogue session Jaworski called the "bull pen" in which participants will pose potential solutions to current issues and receive feedback from a panel of experts.



"We won't get all the answers here," Jaworski said, "but we'll get the energy and the leaders."



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