Patty McDuffee, owner of Fielday, is well acquainted with the outdoors and coordinating tour groups. She spent ten years with the Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego County, working to preserve and sustain small farms by funding projects designed to develop and promote agri-tourism. During that time, she coordinated, directed and escorted agricultural, garden and conservation tours in San Diego county and in Mexico for community leaders, state legislators and educators.
Patty McDuffee has also worked with farm and visitors’ bureaus, hotels and destinations managers, coordinating tours, seminars and special events; served as liaison between boards, agencies, municipalities and industry. She also planned promotional media events prior to coming to the Conservation District. Patty McDuffee has worked as a grower, floral designer and event planner. She is the mother of five grown adults and grandmother of eight, has a degree in horticulture, is a Master Gardener, and earned her pilot’s license. She enjoys adventures with grandchildren, hiking, bicycling, kayaking and travel.
How do the tours offered through Fielday give guests a unique perspective on the history, people, and culture in San Diego?
We take our guests on back country roads through farms, ranches, groves and vineyards where we weave the story of San Diego through its rich agricultural history which includes past and present issues of water, land, climate and labor. We learn and share what it really takes to get San Diego grapes in the glass.
How have the tours evolved since their inception?
We originally offered just farm tours but learned there is a limited audience for visitors interested in avocados and zucchini. We then added tours that were historically interesting, capitalizing on each destination’s unique history and using the local historical societies and/or museums (Ramona Historical Museum and Llama Farm and Highway 101 as an example). At one point, we had offered over 20 different tours in San Diego that were interesting and fun. Gradually, we learned offering too much to too many was exhausting and returned to our passion which is agriculture. We expanded our audience by adding vineyards and boutique wine tastings in the rarely seen backside of San Diego County.
What is one detail of a Fielday experience that may go unnoticed by guests but what you feel is important?
Flexibility is an asset but it is important that we make sure our destination’s host are moving things along without the guests being aware or feeling rushed. (farmers and winemakers are generally passionate about what they do and how they do it ). It is important that guests get a maximized experience and not spend too much time in one place and miss out on the next.
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider visiting San Diego?
I would love every tourist who visits San Diego to know there is more than “the Beach, the Zoo and Shamu” as that’s our motto. I’d love for everyone to come explore the “Backside” of San Diego where it all began and is still happening
What is the travel trend that really excites you?
The one travel trend we see that is exciting is a more sophisticated and educated group of Baby Boomers who are retiring, traveling and who require a higher standard from the tourism industry. Studies indicate they are either still active or active minded and although they may not be running marathons, they appreciated an interactive “real” experience with “real” people where they might learn something. We have endeavored to provide that experience with our friendly, family farm winery tours.
What sets Fielday tours apart from other, similar, tour options?
This is not your typical corporate wine tasting experience, but rather a more relaxed wine tasting journey through the rural roads winding through working farms, ranches, and vineyards in the beautiful back country of San Diego. Additionally, what sets us apart is we provide family farm hospitality while sipping the fruits of our past and present agriculture with award winning wines.
What is one insider’s tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?
Sometimes the local community events outside the main attractions are extremely fun, interesting and educational. We suggest an internet research locating events that may be happening outside the main attractions downtown area during the time of one’s visit including local farmers markets, wine or other local festivals.
What is one strategy that has helped your tour business grow?
As we only offer group tours and San Diego is not well branded for wine tasting tours, it is important to educate key people by inviting them for a personal hands on experience to see for themselves what we have to offer San Diego. This was and is instrumental in securing a contract with Princess cruise ships.
What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provide them?
There are two I would like share:
- I had a group of Princess cruise ship guests visiting one of our wineries. Rose, the owner, greeted our guests. During the wine tasting, she related her story which included a recent fire that took the lives of their neighbors; however, she, her husband, and their vineyard were saved through the “Grace of God”. She went on to say they (the guests) were sipping the wine from that vintage. By the time we were leaving, all were crying and laughing and everyone wanted selfies taken with Rosa and her husband.
- I had a group of mostly Midwest teachers at a local citrus farm listening to the farmer tell his story. As I guided everyone on to the motorcoach for our next stop, the last women to board asked if she could touch the grapefruit on a nearby tree as she had never seen a grapefruit tree. I then queried the boarded group and realized most had never seen a grapefruit on a tree. We all piled off and spent the next half hour picking grapefruits to the teachers and the farmer’s delight.