Agriculture is Virginia’s largest and oldest industry, generating $52 billion annually. In the New River Valley, beef and forestry are the largest agriculture sectors. As a supplement to traditional agriculture, many farmers are creating on-farm experiences (agritourism) to diversify their income and offset losses experienced during difficult growing seasons. In July 2013, New River Valley stakeholders identified agribusiness as a key vehicle of the local economy and received funding to develop a Strategic Plan for Agriculture and Agritourism.
The purpose of the plan was to: 1) identify agriculture assets in the community; 2) develop a plan of work for agribusiness; 3) Develop a plan of work for agritourism; and 4) Develop a brand/identity. The project was funded by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Department of Housing and Community Development, Giles County, Montgomery County, and Pulaski County.
The New River Valley Agriculture and Agritourism Strategic Plan identifies several strategies that could be accomplished within the next three years. In addition to completing a short-term plan of work, the Commission partnered with Southwest Virginia SO Fresh to maintain a Local Foods Guide. The guide is available online here: www.swvafresh.org/food-producers/. Next steps include developing a marketing plan for the recently established logo and tagline.The work was a collaborative effort supported by over 100 representatives from across the region. As a capstone to this work, a conference was held on September 21-22, 2015 at the Skelton Center in Blacksburg. The Planning for an Agriculture Future in Southwest Virginia Conference featured an extensive list of speakers from across the Commonwealth and presentations are available online here: nrvrc.org/Events/agricon2015/. The Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, Mr. Todd Haymore, joined the conference during lunch on the first day and shared his vision for the future of agriculture in Virginia.
For further information, please contact Elijah Sharp ([email protected]) or 540-639-9313, ext. 209.