Brighton Chamber explores possibilities of agritourism growth

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By Crystal Nelson

BRIGHTON — Chamber of Commerce members were able to learn about agritourism and what’s being done to preserve farmland in Brighton during a March 18 luncheon at the Armory. 

Kelli Hepler, of the Colorado Tourism Office Department of Culture, Heritage and Agritourism, said Colorado is the only state in the country to have a budget designated for agritourism. She said that agritourism is something that’s growing fast and that it’s something a lot of people are wanting to get involved in. She suggested creating a local tour or even an event as a way to bring people into the area. 

Locally, the City of Brighton is working to preserve farmland within the greater Brighton area. Parks and Recreation Director Gary Wardle said the city formed an agricultural land preservation subcommittee in 2011 to help develop the processes and policies to assist in farmland preservation. He said the subcommittee also wants to ensure the landowner is compensated fairly for their land and water and that it isn’t taken from them. 

“The goal of the ag-preservation subcommittee is to look at all of the ag-land in and around the Brighton area… And find how we can work with the local land owners to preserve their land and farming,” he said. “We know a lot of them aren’t wishing to farm much anymore, their kids aren’t interested in it. Of course today, unfortunately, it’s not as lucrative as it could be.”

Wardle believes that could change if Brighton could get some agritourism. To that end, the city has already acquired three farms thus far and it is working on renovating the historic Bromley-Hishinuma farm which could be the beginning of agritourism in the Brighton area.

“We’re hoping to be able to turn that into an agritourism site,” Wardle said of the Bromley-Hishinuma Farm. “We’re looking for someone to come in and actually farm the five acres that we have available and then looking at using the house, the barn and the silo for other kinds of recreational opportunities.” 

Shannon McDowell, Open Space Program Manager for the Adams County Parks Department, said while the county was going through its open space, parks and trails process in 2012 citizens would let her know they would like to see more agricultural preservation.

As she continued to research the best land for farming, she realized the south area of Brighton is a good area and is still being farmed today. McDowell said Brighton would be an ideal location for agritourism since it’s so close to the Denver Metro area. 

She added the Brighton area also allows for more intensive farming – such as pumpkin patches, bed and breakfasts and farm to table restaurants – and possibilities for agroburbia in areas that are already slated for development.

According to McDowell, the Adams County Parks Department is starting a planning process that residents will hear more about later in the year. She said data collection will start at the end of the year, then concepts of what the future of the area could be will be developed.

“We really see this plan as a way for Brighton to embrace their agricultural heritage but also look toward the future and make sure that there is land set aside for food so people can have that connection to the land and so we can have food forever,” she said.