Vacationer Supported Agriculture: Tourism’s Tastiest Addition

Vacationer Supported Agriculture: Tourism’s Tastiest Addition

Packing up for one last escape to the coast? No need to pack fresh produce, thanks to growing Vacationer Supported Agriculture (VSA) offerings. This project pairs local produce with local places, enabling direct sales. What should you know?

Vacation rentals now include the option to receive local-to-your-stay fruit and vegetables. This feature easily helps vacationers hoping to stick to their locavore lifestyle. One click, and a VSA produce bag will be on its way for its rental fee.

This business tactic is yet another great pivot, this time from small farms. Why? They’ve chosen to meet customers where they are, no matter the ever-changing market.

Vacationer Supported Agriculture

Vacationer Supported Agriculture (VSA) is a project led by NC State’s P1tLab and NC State Extension (Local Foods, Community Development, and Tourism Extension) aiming to connect small farmers with new opportunities to increase farm revenue through direct sales of fresh produce to vacationers.Local Food- NC Cooperative Extension NC State Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

Posted by NC State Extension Tourism on Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Local produce vacationer supported agriculture
The VSA project enables you to enjoy the
taste of health and local food on any vacation.
[Image courtesy of Tijana Drndarski on Pexels.]

Local produce delivery for the win.

Despite a landslide of rental cancellations earlier this spring, rental properties have returned to business. And they must make up for lost time. Their return is good news for farmers, especially in properties along South Brunswick or Pender County Beaches. So far, these two areas make up the VSA project.

While you could logically assume this spin on communal agriculture originated from social distancing, the idea is actually pre-COVID. Now in its third year, the creators at the North Carolina State Extension office couldn’t have predicted the benefits of this delivery model. Tourism may be up, yet with many preferring to avoid the store the option for produce delivery is a boost for farms.

During peak farming season, 150 bags of fresh produce greet tourists weekly as they settle into their rental accommodations. Impressing tourists with simple recipes and local flavors. All the while boosting business for local farms, aggregators and the nearby storefronts serving as produce pickup sites.

The shift from CSA to VSA.

Vacation guests rave about the Sweet Silver Queen Corn
found in late summer VSA produce bags.
[Image courtesy of SkitterPhoto on Pexels.]

Historically, farms have offered CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) as farm shares to local consumers. The customer pays a set amount at the start of the season in order to receive a weekly offering of the farm’s yield. This format is still going strong today. However with shopping preferences growing more particular – especially during the recent pandemic, marketing and delivery models have needed to shift.

VSA Program Director, Becky Bowen, points out how farmers have had to pivot their business to stay out of the red. Shifting delivery models and seeking new partnerships in the tourism industry seems to be helping. Beck invites farmers to team up with one of two aggregators who then delivers produce to vacation spots.

One local aggregator, Men and Women United for Youth and Families, not only negotiates prices and produce for 40 plus farms, they provide job training, mentorship and empowerment for those involved. Surely a bright spot in Becky’s eyes. As the organization relies heavily on students, their work wraps up as school begins. This year, final deliveries go out August 15th.

Meal kits, personalized produce and beyond.

Moving forward, Becky has big dreams for VSA.

Creating meal kits, offering porch delivery and daringly hoping to expand delivery into the congested roads of the Outer Banks. For now, Becky is focusing on getting the message out to potential partners. Perhaps also considering how to extend the delivery season beyond back-to-school.

Curious what’s in the bag this week? Click here. Consider including VSA in your next vacation rental. Or if you’re here year-round, consider a CSA with Bear Ridge Farms.

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