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View from The Visitor’s Center: Our agricultural heritage

Locations: Columns Published

For any new visitor inquiring about Carbondale and looking to learn about our town, I always point them towards the doors of the Thompson House Museum, which I think sets the perfect historical tone to learn about our community’s first settlers and pioneers—including Myron and Hattie Thompson, and their descendants.

I can also point them towards one of our bars or dining outlets, where they can literally sample the local terroir via the burger on their plate or the craft beer in their glass — we take it for granted but its highly unique that a small town is home to both a brewery and a distillery. 

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If the visitor wants to go even deeper to connect with the land, I explain how the team at Marble Distillery will take them on a distillery production tour where they will learn about the local grains and malt used for vodkas and whiskey, or I can point them to a number of our local farms that offer a range of fun craft classes, or farm tours and animal experiences (how about alpaca yoga at Cedar Ridge Ranch!), or I can point them to which farm stand has the best tomatoes in the Roaring Fork Valley (Wild Mountain Seeds’ stand at Landmark Café of course!)

For many travelers, food is the entry point to understanding a community, its culture, its history. Carbondale’s authentic story as a food producer has become so renowned (our famous Potato Day festival has garnered national and international attention) that as a tourism promotion organization, Carbondale Tourism has continues to look at the best ways to the cultivate our community’s agritourism scene, and  to find new platforms to tell our local food and farm stories. 

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This leads me to introduce you to the new  Roaring Fork + Farm Map, a printed pocket guide to Carbondale’s agritourism which includes guest ranches, public gardens and farms, visitor attractions, and experiences, along with restaurants and retailers that were identified as specifically supporting the local food movement through menu items or connections with local farmers.

Agritourism is a concept with origins in Italy, where farmers have opened their barn doors to visitors, providing not just accommodations but also “experiences” such as working on the farm (which is called WWOOFing!) to “petting” tours with farm animals, you-pick experiences, cheese-making, fiber art classes, and even extravagant fine-dining dinners that can take place in the actual  crop or produce fields for even more authenticity. These experiences give travelers a chance to connect with the earth, enjoy the outdoors, and learn about the roots of food production.

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Back in Spring 2019, Carbondale Tourism set about working with the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) Destination Development program to educate our farm and rancher community on the processes for developing visitor experiences, including regulations and land use codes, as well as tourism trends and marketing ideas. As part of this development program, Carbondale Tourism worked with the CTO’s team to create an entry-level visitor information, which we are calling The Roaring Fork + Food Map. This pocket-sized visitor guide will be distributed through local tourism businesses over the next few weeks. It features a beautiful story map illustrated by local artist, Sarah Uhl, along with highlights of the local food and farming scene which we hope inspires our visitors and locals-alike on a journey of discovery and appreciation for Carbondale’s local flavors, and unique ranching culture. 

The mission of Carbondale Tourism is to create a strong tourism economy by promoting the Town. To learn about Carbondale as a tourist destination, visit our website, www.carbondale.com, email me at andrea@carbondale.com or feel free to swing by our office in the Third Street Center. 

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