Women in Ag: Agritourism Marketing Specialist Erica Calderon

by | Mar 20, 2024

March is celebrated as National Women’s Month, a time to recognize the many accomplishments of women. There’s a common misconception that agriculture is a male-driven field. In North Carolina, there’s many trail-blazing women that are not only making their impact felt at the farm level, but also on national agricultural boards, leading as ag researchers and professors at our universities and companies and as owners of processing plants and other ag-related businesses. The latest Census of Agriculture shows that 33 percent of all agriculture producers in North Carolina are female. Women run nearly 22,000 farms in the state with an average farm size of 131 acres and average total production value of $353,278.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services also benefits from the knowledge and leadership of women with nearly half of the leadership positions at the department filled by women.
The Marketing Division of the NCDA&CS has women running farmers markets, ag centers and many of the programs that support farmers in the state. These women demonstrate a passion for the industry, decades of experience and a solid base of guidance and support for the farmers, vendors and consumers they serve. This week we are introducing you to a few of the women that help promote agriculture through their roles at the NCDA&CS. Today we highlight Erica Calderon, agritourism marketing specialist. 

Erica Calderon may be one of the newest members of the NDA&CS Marketing Division team but she brings a wealth of agriculture and hospitality experience to her role as agritourism marketing specialist. She jumped right into her role in November 2023 to help grow and support the farms in the state that have agritourism activities such as pick-your-own fields, demonstration areas, seasonal events, field trips and more.

“Agritourism is one of the fastest growing industries in the country,” said Calderon. “Consumers are also more and more interested in where their food comes from which means our agritourism operators have a great opportunity to harness the growing interest in tourism and agriculture in the state.”

Calderon grew up in agriculture with both parents working in the industry. She received her bachelor’s in hospitality management and marketing from the Rosen School of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida. She spent five years working with international sales and marketing for Boyette Brothers sweet potatoes in Wilson County. Her experience also includes four years in restaurant marketing, opening new restaurants and assisting with community outreach. Her last role before starting at the department was three years owning her own catering business.

“The hospitality and ag industry mesh well,” she said. “I feel that my background makes me a great resource for our agritourism farms. Many of these farms are up and running but need help with marketing and collaborating. Even if they have mastered the day-to-day running of their agritourism activities they still need help with visibility, how to keep visitors engaged during the off season and logistics such as parking, restrooms, online booking, crowd management and visitor experience.”
Calderon also wants to develop a companion website to go along with the popular Visit NC Farms App. “The App is a great tool for anyone to use when looking for farms in an area,” she said. “A website would be helpful for those planning their trip in advance and also a place for blogs and other information on agritourism in the state.”

She champions visiting agritourism farms as a great way for anyone to support agriculture in the state. “These farms are agriculture first,” she said.” “They have to be focused on producing the crops that they grow and the day-to-day responsibilities that come with that effort. Agritourism is a tool to support farms and farm families. It is also one of the best ways to teach our non-farming neighbors a little about North Carolina’s No. 1, agriculture.”