This fall, Harvest Time Brentwood is set to launch a Fall Harvest Program that will focus on pumpkins and pumpkin related activities. The program is aimed to extend the harvest season for local farmers into the fall to increase growth of the Farm-to-Fork program.
On Tuesday, Harvest Time Brentwood requested $8,200 from the City to assist with marketing efforts which included digital marketing, build out of webpages for pumpkin farms, videos, signage and local advertising.
The move came after last year the City of Brentwood approved its Strategic Initiative Plan which supports and emphasizes agricultural incentives, marketing and the promotion of agri-tourism. The funding for this request will come through the Agriculture Business Program Fund.
According to Peggy Berglund, Senior Analyst, the Agricultural Enterprise Fund not only promotes but permits expenditures for: promotion/marketing; marketing support for area farmers; reinvestment in planting of key crops; as well as agri-tourism and agri-business development to mention a few.
On Tuesday, Steve Gursky and Sean McCauley presented the concept to the City Council of the fall Harvest.
“One of the top initiatives Harvest Time has in their strategic plan is to even flow ag-tourism throughout the year, right now, we currently have a large spike coming into the city during U-Pick (May/June) and we are really trying to change that throughout the year to be more even flow,” explained McCauley. “One of our initiatives is to do a fall harvest program, or pumpkins.”
McCauley explained that last year, they asked some of the larger farmers to do a test and plant 5-10 acres of pumpkins or fall vegetables to see what kind of traction they could get with a pumpkin harvest—similar to how Half Moon Bay.
“We kinda want to fill that gap between the region to maybe not go all the way down to Half Moon Bay, maybe they could stop in Brentwood,” said McCauley. “We have the ground, we have the farmers, we have the expertise.”
McCauley also highlighted that when the farmers did their test last year, they had really good results with the pumpkins. Brentwoods program would not be purchasing pumpkins and placing them in a field, instead, they would grow and cut them so people would have the full experience of pumpkin picking.
McCauley explained with the funding they plan to increase exposure and get the message out to the public by creating more videos and content.
Council Member Claudette Staton asked for an explanation of what their digital marketing was in which McCauley explained it was their website, social media platforms in one package that different people subscribe to.
Staton also asked when Harvest Time was.
“We start heavy with U-Pick in May which is typically peak season and between May and July we bring in anywhere from 150,000 to 200,000 unique visitors to the area,” said Gursky. “Our whole goal here is to extend that into the months after July… we are going to have apples this year, that is going to be a first and then the pumpkin season will be September, October… we have farmers doing Christmas Tree lots.”
Gursky highlighted that if they were to get a quarter of what they get during peak season, that would be 50,000 unique visitors coming to the area. They are also looking to begin marketing the fall season in the spring and over the summer.
Gursky further explained that Smith Family Farms has began to fill up with pumpkins and Brentwood schools were actually headed to Clayton for pumpkins and their goal is to keep local schools in the area.
“We are not only trying to reach the greater Bay Area and bring them this way, but keep them in town as well,” said Gursky. “It just seems crazy to spend those dollars out of the area if we can meet that need with our own members.”
Council Member Karen Rarey asked about the possible expansion of this as they are starting with a corn maze, pumpkin bowling and what the future could hold.
McCauley explained that the current U-Pick season in the spring was not build in one year, but rather over time and they now have a foundation. They really needed to build this up and assist the small farmers to get them going—similar to how its working with Cherries.
“We are an advertising entity for the farmers. Our job is to solely grab people and bring them to the farmers so they can be sustainable,” said McCauley. “Farm to fork, if we don’t do that for them they are not going to plant these things and not do these things.”
Mayor Bob Taylor explained he one year he planted an acre of pumpkins at the started of the infancy of Harvest Time.
“Our first weekend, we sold every pumpkin I had. Meanwhile I had a big mouth and I advertised everywhere I was going to have a bunch of pumpkins,” said Taylor. “I had to go to the valley and pick up the big bins, we brought the big bins in we sold out the second weekend… no exaggeration, I then get a call from a chain, which was then Longs Drug, they heard I had pumpkins. Oh ya, I got lots of pumpkins. They ordered 18,000. I didn’t have that many pumpkins. The moral of the story is there is a market. It is a huge market. This will go over really well once the schools hear.”
Taylor called this program a “winner” and will take off while enhancing the whole city.
The Council then voted 5-0 to approve the funding request.