For 15 years, David Gillespie has had an agri-food tourism idea percolating in his mind. Inspired by the Circuit du Paysan, the farmer living in Pontiac, Québec, has been working to create an agri-food tourism circuit.
In July, the United Counties of Prescott and Russell became the first region in Ontario to be added to the circuit.
“It’s a natural fit for us because it fits into the sort of things that we’re trying to promote,” says Justin Bromberg, the UCPR’s communications manager.
“We already have an agri-food map that we do in partnership with (Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry)… all of that information can be shared.”
In 2016, Gillespie established the CANAMEX committee, which stands for Canadian-American Exchange. The committee wanted to support agriculture sustainability through three pillars: agri-tourism, research and development, and community outreach.
Through CANAMEX, Gillespie has gotten government representatives on board from Vermont, New York and Québec to help connect agri-food tours in each region into one large 1,500-kilometre circuit. The circuit now runs down around Lake Champlain in the two states, up through Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, across Prescott-Russell and stretches out to Pontiac via Wakefield.
Asked how this circuit helps in the sustainability of agri-food, Gillespie says, “It’s a value added and that’s a definite aspect of sustainability—economic viability.”
Now’s he’s established a new committee with representatives from each region to look at funding opportunities to have the circuit open for spring 2019.
Bromberg says there haven’t been any discussion about the financial implications of being a part of the circuit, other than possible advertising.
“The route will be so long and so extensive, it’ll be a destination point for people to spend a whole week or two if they want, actually a whole month if they wanted,” says Gillespie. “We’re going to be aiming for an international clientele.”