You might think of Vacaville as a shopping mecca anchored by the historic Nut Tree, which opened in 1921 as a rest stop. Today, Nut Tree Plaza is home to 50 retail stores, an array of dining establishments, as well as a railroad and carousel that serves as a family shopping excursion.
But beyond that, and that Vacaville offers more affordable overnight stays than its Wine Country neighbors, the region has another trump card in hand: one that has helped overcome the pandemic and begin to recover from the storm that has come. has been slaughtering the hospitality industry more than a year since.
Known as Agriventure or Agritourism, Visit Vacaville showcases its farm experiences and recreational activities such as biking, hiking and bouldering.
Vacaville’s outdoor nature was one of the two things that in some ways helped the city weather the pandemic a bit easier than its neighbors in Wine Country, noted Melyssa Reeves, President and CEO of Visit. Vacaville.
âPeople always wanted to go out and do outdoor activities, which were still very accessible and comfortable for a lot of people,â she said.
The city’s diverse economy has also helped support a number of its hotel businesses, she said.
âRegardless of the global situation, Travis Air Force Base is always busy and we get a certain number of (hotel) rooms from (there),â Reeves said. âAnd Vacaville has a huge amount of biotech, which continued to stay pretty busy during the pandemic. “
Reeves has watched Vacaville’s economy grow in the nearly 14 years she has run the tourism agency, which operates from July 1 to June 30. When she arrived, Visit Vacaville had been around for about two years and had a budget of $ 256,000, she said. The organization had been without a director for about a year before Reeves arrived.
Today, Visit Vacaville’s annual budget is approximately $ 800,000, she said.
âCrazy enough, we’ve had more companies announcing their arrival in Vacaville in the last year than I’ve heard in the entire time I’ve been here,â Reeves said, adding that she thought that employers were taking note of the impact. tourism can have on the economy of a small community, and how that can translate into a better quality of life and help attract more workers.
Work the land
Pleasants Valley Agriculture Association is a collective interest in agro-tourism and cross-promotion with local businesses.
Soul Food Farms in Vacaville is a member of the group. Alexis Koefoed has owned the land with her husband, Eric, for 22 years.
Koefoed has spent nearly a decade focusing on diversifying Soul Food Farm – which she said was at one point the largest grazing chicken farm in the state – by planting rows of lavender fields. , annual flowers, fruit trees and investing time and energy in marketing commercial olive oil.
âWe were focusing on farm-to-table dinners as a way to get people hereâ¦
Then the pandemic struck, visitors canceled their plans, and farmers at Pleasants Valley Farms, including Soul Food Farms, were shut down.
Koefoed, who is the only workforce on the property, said earnings fell to “zero” after bringing in between $ 80,000 and $ 100,000 in previous years. Koefoed’s husband is a working engineer and has kept the couple afloat financially.
The farm reopened about three weeks ago with a new farm store that includes produce from neighboring farmers. âWe are very happy to be able to do this,â she said.
Over the past year or so, Koefoed has said that she has seen a change that she hopes will last.
âPeople in the Bay Area are really starting to understand that during the pandemic, being outside was so important,â she said. âAnd maybe for a lot of people it was the only opportunity to do something. Hope this wave of interest in walking, hiking, being in nature, visiting farms continues as a rediscovery of what is here in the Bay Area for people .
It was the special events industry that was hit hardest in Vacaville during the pandemic, said Brooke Fox, executive director of the Downtown Vacaville Business Improvement District.
âIn 2020, we had to cancel over 30 different events that typically serve as an engine of economic development that typically bring people downtown to shop and discover their local restaurants and best-kept secrets,â said Fox.
Ultimately, it was Vacaville’s external resources that emerged as the first sign of recovery, she said.
“As we went through the pandemic, the only thing we could do was host our farmers market, a COVID-secure and social distancing version, which was actually the only thing we could put together.” Fox said. “This provided an economic benefit to our restaurants, as well as to all the vendors and farmers who needed to sell their crops, work their fields and bring their produce to market.”