The April activity for the Student Tourism Exploration Program (S.T.E.P.) was to learn about agritourism and the Fresh Foodie Trail®, a vital part of the tourism industry in Mesa, Arizona.
First, the students toured Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek, a town just outside of Mesa. The former mayor of the town and owner of the farm, Mark Schnepf, lectured the students about the history of the farm, its development of it, and its challenges over the years. Interestingly, the farm has coined the term “Agritainment” which is the marriage of traditional farming with entertainment, as a draw to bring visitors.
The students were then taken on a hayride throughout the property. It was conveyed to students that a big portion of the business for the farm is weddings, where they see up to 500K visitors from this market with its three venues. They also saw their newest addition, the glamping experience “Cozy Peach” where people can stay overnight on the farm in refurbished Airstream trailers. It was a very educational tour as the students were able to learn how the farm has been an example of innovation throughout its history.
Next, the students visited Queen Creek Olive Mill, an attraction that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. They first joined an olive oil tour and tasting experience where the guide explained the process of making olive oil, the history of the farm, and the different nuances of oils including a few tastings. The students were then treated to lunch in the olive grove where the owner of the mill took the time to speak about the impact of tourism and the Olive Mill’s future.
The impact of agritourism on Mesa’s economy was made quite clear throughout these tours. It was a great experience for the students to not only be a tourist for the day but also learn about additional career opportunities in the tourism industry.