Agriculture is central to the history and culture of the Shenandoah Valley. Our family farmers provide us with an abundance of delicious food. According to the 2017 USDA census, the Shenandoah Valley, Rockingham and Augusta counties in particular, have the best access to local food in the state. Yet, our farms and farmers are disappearing quickly from the landscape.
This issue is not exclusive to the Shenandoah Valley. According to a report by the American Farmland Trust, between 2001 and 2016 over 11 million acres of farmland were lost to development, the majority of which was Low-Density Residential, development. Virginia is listed as being under high threat of losing agricultural land, although VA is not in the top 10 for states most under threat. We are concerned about this loss not only because losing farmland in Virginia means losing centuries of tradition, but because well managed farmland is one of our biggest tools for climate resiliency.
The loss of farmland also poses an economic threat to Virginia. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) reports that agriculture is the biggest private industry in the state, with a total economic impact of $70 billion annually. Agriculture and Forestry combined are valued at $91 billion annually.
The Valley brings in billions of dollars in tourism annually. Tourists are drawn to the valley for outdoor recreation, hunting & fishing, antique shopping, and cultural experiences. The historic towns and cities across the Valley draw people in with their charm. Shenandoah National Park, one of the most popular parks by annual visitation, draws millions of people to the Valley every year. Agro-tourism, tourism specifically around food and farms, which includes the wine industry, also greatly contributes to Virginia tourism.
VCC wants to see our valuable farmland preserved and protected. Farms and farmers not only keep us fed, but contribute to our communities in immeasurable ways. We cannot imagine a Valley without our beautiful farms, forests, and scenic views. VCC, along with many citizens in the greater Shenandoah Valley region and beyond, feel a sense of urgency about protecting its legendary resources so that we save them before it is too late.
Your support of VCC helps us help landowners and communities overcome challenges and protect farms, forests, open space, and the communities of the Shenandoah Valley