The 4th season of Peterborough Farm to Table Culinary Tours has officially wrapped up. The tour brought over 180 shoppers and diners into the core this year – bringing a four-year total to over 400 engaged patrons to the stores and restaurants of downtown. For the 3rd straight year, each tour has been completely sold out.
“It has been another banner year for showcasing Downtown Peterborough,” exclaims Farm to Table owner/host Donald Fraser. “And we look forward to many more.”
The tours, which run each Wednesday from the Peterborough Downtown Farmers’ Market, visit six stores and restaurants per week, with an overall roster of 28 businesses.
“Farm to the Table serves as a vital beacon to the community by pointing them to the Mecca of culinary excellence,” says Peterborough Downtown Business Improvement Association (DBIA) Director, Terry Guiel. “That Mecca is downtown.”
This year, The DBIA sponsored the tour, covering all of the printing costs for the year.
Fraser sees the tours as an important economic stimulus for Peterborough.
“You cannot have a healthy city if you do not have a healthy downtown core,” he explains. “A lifetime customer for a store or restaurant adds up to hundreds – or usually thousands – of dollars of revenue. We’re creating a lot of lifetime customers for a lot of downtown businesses.”
For Guiel, the tours are not only a financial asset, but an educational one.
“The economic benefits to our downtown are enormous but do not end there.” He explains. “Donald not only sells the idea of the quality of downtown local food and drink, but the ethics of where that food is produced and how it is produced.”
It is a sentiment echoed by Downtown Farmers’ Market Manager, Jillian Bishop.
“It is exciting to see so many people making the link between local growers and the food that ends up on their plates,” she says. “The tours are a wonderful showcase for our local food systems – from farmers and producers to entrepreneurs, chefs, and business owners. Tour patrons gain a real understanding about the importance of shopping – and eating – locally.”
It is business owners that most feel the impact.
“Every summer we look forward to dozens of individuals coming in our doors, both from Peterborough and elsewhere,” says Warren Eley of Naked Chocolate. “Few have heard of us and even fewer have been to our shop prior to the tours. Many from Peterborough are often shocked that they hadn’t heard of us before. Those from further afield are dazzled by the variety and quality of all of the local establishments’ offerings. Needless to say, many return and become local customers. No amount of money spent on advertising could have this effect.”
Fraser, who also operates a writing and communications consulting firm sees the marketing experience as greater than just the one-on-one tour experience.
“Really, there is no better direct marketing experience than having business owners and chefs showcase their best work to people on an individual level,” he says. “That is a gold standard of marketing. But the great thing is that all of these tour patrons are going home and telling friends and family about the wonderful businesses they’ve visited, and the diversity of shopping and dining that they experienced. Many of them will then hop online and tell a few hundred more.”
Fraser, who has been behind numerous major local social media projects – including the very successful #PeterTweeter Awards – monitors online conversation about the tours and the businesses involved.
“I’m excited to see these little blips on the social media radar after tours take place,” he smiles. “You see people Tweeting and Facebooking about these businesses. And you see others asking questions about businesses that they had previously never heard of.”
The tour gets universally good reviews – with most patrons booking after hearing about it through word of mouth.
“It’s an afternoon of eating, learning, and being entertained,” says tour patron, Brianna Salmon. “Not only is the food spectacular, but the chefs and owners take pride in ensuring that people get a memorable experience.”
According to Guiel, Fraser is a major part of the experience.
“Donald knows the downtown,” he says. “He knows its buildings, its history and its people. You can’t fake that. You can tell while taking the tours how genuinely proud he is of the downtown, and its food and beverage businesses – you can also see the respect and appreciation he has for the people behind those businesses.”
Farm to Table will be offering a few special events throughout the winter season – including a series of “February Blahs” wine, beer, and spirit tastings. To keep up to date, follow them at @farm_to_table on Twitter, at Peterborough Farm to Table Culinary Tours on Facebook, or subscribe to the www.ptbolocalfoods.ca blog.