Plan to make Wollondilly a rural tourism hotspot

Councillor and agricultural tourism business owner Blair Briggs
Councillor and agricultural tourism business owner Blair Briggs

Farms across Wollondilly are set to become Sydney's newest tourism hotspots.

Farm innovation and tourism organisation Regionality want more of the shire's farmers to branch out and promote local tourism.

Regionality will host a Wollondilly Shire Agritourism Field Day on August 8 to help land owners learn more about the tourism options available.

Wollondilly mayor Matthew Deeth said he was excited about the event.

"Wollondilly is in the perfect location right on Sydney's doorstep with a major airport not too far away," he said.

"This is a great first step for our farmers to learn about diversifying their business.

"[Farm] tourism is an ideal way to highlight the character of the shire and help our local agriculture businesses thrive.

"The viability of our region's farms is important."

Cr Deeth said the council would also do its part to help farmers through its Easier to do Business initiative.

"We are cutting the delay on some development applications (DA) submitted to council," he said.

"So rather than taking nine months it will only take about four weeks to go through the process.

"We wanted to take the pain out of the DA process and we know farmers are already stretched for time so we as a council decided we needed to do better to make it easier for our local business owners."

The shire is already home to some farms that offer guests a tourism experience including Cedar Creek Orchard, Berrylicious, Country Valley and Mowbray Park Farm.

Mowbray Park Farm owner and councillor Blair Briggs knows first-hand what it is like to run a rural tourism business.

He said tourism was a great way for local farmers to earn some extra income.

"Farming is always a challenge particularly with the reality of the drought conditions we currently exist in," he said.

"So the weather can be against you and market prices can be against you, among other things.

"Tourism is another income stream that could help farmers but it too has its challenges."

Cr Briggs said farmers needed to have the skills required to ensure guests enjoyed their time at the farm.

"Farmers are responsible not just for their guests safety but also how they feel leaving the farm," he said.

"If they aren't happy they won't come back, and the challenge is to keep people coming back."

Cr Briggs said while "agritourism" wouldn't be the only type of tourism in the shire, it was a great way to keep the region's rural identity in tact.

"There will be a whole mix of tourism activities in the shire in future," he said.

"[Wollondilly] is a great day-trip destination from Sydney.

"You don't have to travel far from the city and suddenly you feel like you're in the middle of nowhere."

Regionality's Farm to plate specialist and founder Rose Wright said many farmers who had undertaken the field day program had gone on to successfully develop new business opportunities on their farm or from their produce.

"Visitors want authentic, regional produce and experiences, which we often take for granted," Mrs Wright said.

"With a growing urban population on the doorstep and the development of the Western Sydney Airport, farmers in Wollondilly are very well placed to tap into these opportunities and develop high value food products and farm experiences that improve the viability of farms."

Interested farmers can register for the field day at www.trybooking.com and enter Wollondilly Shire.