Saturday, February 27, 2010

Strengthening Shenandoah County's Agricultural Sector

Forums Focused on Supporting and Enhancing our Agricultural Viability and Profitability

Over the coming months, Shenandoah Forum will sponsor a series of public forums and workshops presenting options for supporting and enhancing the viability and profitability of Shenandoah County's agricultural base. The project - dubbed Farm to Table --- targets Shenandoah County's diverse farming sector. This includes farming operations of all sizes and types - whether traditional or modern, long standing or new, large or small. It will include programs to assist current and prospective farmers, farms involved in agritourism, as well as our vineyards and wineries, orchards, woodlots and trout farms.

While spotlighting the farming community, the forums are also intended for consumers who value local resources and look for ways to ensure their availability and public officials seeking to realize the Comprehensive Plan's vision of a rural character and sustainable agricultural future for Shenandoah County.

Shenandoah County ranks fifth in overall agriculture production in the Commonwealth. With an annual gross farm income of more than $100 million, agriculture is the highest earning industry in Shenandoah County and relates closely to the success of other industries, such as tourism, within the county.

A vibrant and healthy agricultural community is vital to the strength, health and future of Shenandoah County and the Forum believes that developing a strong local food system is key to that vibrancy and health, and an important form of community wealth.

Forums Scheduled for March and April

The project will begin in March with a series of two public forums, each a two-hour evening program addressing long-term financing options for farms.

Forum #1: Extending the Season: Long-term Planning Options

Date: Thursday, March 18, 2010

Time: Dinner at 6:00pm, Presentation at 7:00pm

Location: Creekside, 107 North Main Street, Edinburg, Virginia

Speaker: Ron Hanson is the Neal Harlan Professor of Agribusiness in the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Dr. Hanson is a widely travelled national speaker on the importance of family relationships and the future of the family farm. Dr. Hanson's presentation "You Can Buy the Family Farm But Remember I Still Own It" identifies and discusses issues confronting succession of a family-owned farm business. This humorous and motivating message is filled with "true to life" anecdotes to help families work through the process of moving America's agriculture to the next generation -- vital to the future of our economy and our society.

Please RSVP by March 4, 2010 if you plan to attend the March 18th Forum.

By phone - 540.333.3681 or by email at

Forum #2: Sowing the Seeds: Building Lasting Agriculture

Date: Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Time: Dinner at 6:00pm, Presentation at 7:00pm

Location: Creekside, 107 North Main Street, Edinburg, Virginia

Speaker: Craig Sweger is the 2008-2009 Program Director for the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Program with University of Pittsburgh's Institute for Entrepreneurship Excellence. Mr. Sweger is an experienced agricultural businessman and respected advocate for the agricultural community who has for decades been connecting economic development leaders and members of the agricultural community. Mr. Sweger will discuss the successes and challenges of the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Program. This program keeps land, farms and farmers in the business of farming by linking farmers with available agriculture-based and business support-based resources. The evening will also include a discussion on innovative financing options for farmers, farms, and the land.

Please RSVP by March 24, 2010 if you plan to attend the April 7th Forum.

By phone - 540.333.3681 or by email at

Fall 2010 Events

The third in the Shenandoah Forum 2010 Farm to Table Series, To Market, To Market..., to be held in September, will focus on effective marketing approaches and adding value to existing agricultural products. For this all-day event, local producers and businesses will be invited to set up vendor booths, participate on panel discussions, and contribute to a locally-sourced lunch. Speakers will address topics such as current commodity markets and changing market demands. In addition, smaller break-out sessions are planned on topics such as direct farm sales, farmers' markets, community-supported agriculture and agritourism, and food security.

A final celebratory event, Reaping the Harvest: A Celebration of the Land and It's Bounty, also planned for September, is a fundraiser dinner to augment the Valley's Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaign and will feature locally grown and prepared foods.

Throughout this series, Shenandoah Forum hopes to raise the awareness of our community that, even in today's convenience food economy, 'Eating is an Agricultural Act' -- one that deserves our attention and support. The goal of the series is to better understand how we can achieve a more secure future for our community through a locally sustainable food system that creates more profitable farming practices and more informed choices for healthy living.

To RSVP for either the March 18th or April 7th Forum.

Phone - 540.333.3681 or email

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