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Tickets going fast - buy now for Feb., March
YUMA, ARIZONA - Through the winter months, this desert town is surrounded by a lush carpet of fields in all shades of green - and a few of ruby red.
Now, visitors to the "winter vegetable capital" of the nation can get a close-up look at Yuma's agriculture industry that literally begins from the ground up, with participants picking vegetables for their lunch in fields grown especially for that purpose.
"Field to Feast" tours kick off Jan. 20 - but tickets have been picked clean for the sold-out debut. Other scheduled dates are Feb. 1, 3, 15 and 17 and March 1, 3, 15 and 17.
"I guess the public is as excited about this new program as we are," laughs Kristan Sheppeard of the Yuma Visitors Bureau, which is sponsoring the tours in partnership with the University of Arizona Extension, Yuma Safe Produce Council and the Arizona Western College culinary program. "We think people are hungry to know about what's growing around them, that's where this idea sprouted."
Tours depart at 8:30 a.m. from YVB's Visitor Information Center at the Yuma Quartermaster Depot aboard a deluxe motor coach. A food safety video produced by the Yuma Safe Produce Council will be shown on the way to the University of Arizona's Yuma Valley research farm, where participants hit the ground for a harvesting session.
But first, they'll get "hands on" instruction from an industry professional, use a washing station like those deployed in area fields, and be issued both recipes and tools.
"The cool thing is that folks will be getting their hands in the dirt, and getting a taste for both the hard work and the hard science of producing safe and healthy food," Sheppeard said. "Yuma Safe Produce Council is providing both the washing setup and volunteer experts for all of our tours, including practical information about what the general public can do to help keep the food supply safe."
After making their produce selections - with the opportunity for questions and answers with "experts (literally!) in the field" - participants will reboard the bus and tour growing areas. Dr. Kurt Nolte, director of the University of Arizona Extension Office for Yuma County, will serve as onboard guide for all nine tours. A PhD in plant cell and molecular biology, Dr. Nolte is an expert in vegetable production and ag technologies.
"We could not have put these tours together without the help of Kurt Nolte and his staff," Sheppeard added. "Though YVB leased the fields, it's the Extension staff who actually bought the seeds, planted our crops, nursed them through freezing weather in December, and are devoting their time to growing this program."
Meanwhile, vegetables picked by tour participants will be turned into a fresh and healthy lunch by Arizona Western College culinary students under the direction of Mathew Anderson, Bob Nidiffer and Sheranne Dampier. Lunch will be served in a venue that highlights the AWC learning environment, adjacent to the culinary lab, and the student chefs will take a bow. The bus returns to the Quartermaster Depot at approximately 1:30 p.m. as participants enjoy a date cookie for desert.
Sheppeard says the final product, like a treasured family recipe, owes its success to the efforts of many "cooks," including Yuma Palms Regional Mall, donor of tour tote bags.
"We truly could not have done this without all of our partners," Sheppeard said. "We wanted to connect our agriculture community with both visitors and locals - this is not profit driven, it's an effort to provide an authentic look at a key local industry.
"Our goal is to create a fun experience - and to send folks home with a better understanding of the challenges farmers meet every day," Sheppeard added. "We hope that this tour just plants the seed for more agritourism experiences here in Yuma."
Since seats are limited, Sheppeard urges interested folks to buy tickets early for other dates, Feb. 1, 3, 15 and 17 and March 1, 3, 15 and 17. Cost is $30 per person and includes lunch. For more information, call the Visitor Information Center at 928-783-0071 or 800-293-0071.
Yuma Visitors Bureau markets the Yuma area within the travel and tourism industry and to the general public. The nonprofit is funded in part by City of Yuma hospitality tax revenues.
The Yuma Visitors Bureau is always happy to assist members of print, digital and broadcast media, either on assignment or pitching an idea with a Yuma angle.
Media Relations Specialist Ann Walker can suggest itineraries and facilitate visits, or provide you with the inspired details to help nail down an assignment. We pride ourselves on always going "above and beyond."
You can download background and "anytime" materials below; dated press releases appear "most recent first" at left. Call or email us for photos and B-roll video.
YVB periodically hosts group and individual press trips, and is glad to partner with other Arizona or California DMOs to coordinate a visit to several regions.
For more information, contact Ann Walker at 928-376-0100 (office), 928-210-9044 (cell) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your interest in the Yuma area.