Agritourism is growing across Alberta in part due to the hard work of Wendy Gerbrandt and the team at Community Futures Wildrose.
The Agritourism Big Idea Showcase is an online event at wildroseagritourism.ca and is live now seven finalists are seen pitching their big idea from Wheatland County, Three Hills, Bassano, Calgary, and Rosebud.
"We have been working with these participants for a couple of months now providing training and coaching and they have been networking together, really building their ideas, their business plans, and have been preparing for this for a long time," said Eric Burton CEO of Factor 5 group.
Burton is thrilled that they will be able to build a work plan to support the winners of the pitch competition to see their big idea come to fruition in part he explained from the support of the Government of Canada through Western Economic Diversification and the Government of Alberta through the Community and Regional Economics Supports Program.
There are a number of factors that will be assessed from each pitch Burton explained including, the impact they will have on the region, the viability of the business concept, and the commitment that they have demonstrated in bringing their big idea to the market.
Along with the Big Idea Showcase, the goal of this initiative is to show those living in the Alberta area, as well as those visiting from out of province or internationally when travel begins again, what these smaller farms and rural businesses can offer to potential visitors, from farm tours to dining as well as staying on a farm and diving into the day to day activities.
"Calgary is known around the world for the Calgary Stampede and hundreds of thousands of people come every year to enjoy cowboy culture nut what they don't know is they authentic agritourism experiences waiting for them East of Calgary and we want to tell that story and we want to rally the region around it," said Burton.
The focus of this is program is to build the agritourism industry East of Calgary, Burton and his team who have been working with Community Futures Wildrose to put this event together explains that there is an untapped market of potential visitors and by promoting agritourism there is the possibility to have those people coming out to the area to visit and bring tourism dollars back to rural Alberta.
"The event is to stimulate some diversification amongst our agricultural producers and processors and also bringing the visitor out to their locations, the idea is to connect that food story to visitors and to drive some different opportunities to get our visitors out to rural Alberta," said Wendy Gerbrandt Community Economic Development Lead with Community Futures Wildrose.
"The Wildrose region East of Calgary has been leading the province in the number of farms and businesses participating in open farm days," said Burton.
He went on to explain the importance of educating those that are new to agritourism as well as those around the area who may not know that this is something that they can take part and to rally around the local businesses in their community, as well to raise awareness in the different communities about the opportunities that are available to them.
Burton believes it is something that rural Alberta has been known for over the years that will help this initiative to be successful, "It's a team sport and one business doesn't build an industry it is by rallying neighbours and getting people to work together to build an agritourism industry that's going to draw more and more visitors."
This online event will be a starting point for many of the participants to get the support they need in many different areas of their business to continue to grow, with support from Community Futures Wildrose and others they are beginning to network in hopes of meeting new investors as well as bringing their ideas to life and their business to the forefront of peoples minds.
You can see what big idea each participant is pitching here, and get involved through social media to share your thoughts on these new innovative ideas Burton expressed that the thoughts and comments of the public are extremely important to each rural business to continue their growth and know what to offer to keep visitors coming back.