Botetourt County joins the Fields of Gold Program

The Fields of Gold agritourism initiative spearheaded by the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission (CSPDC) is expanding to Botetourt County in 2014. The CSPDC will begin surveying the county’s agricultural businesses, activities, farm retailers and restaurants featuring local products in order to inventory and map them for inclusion in the award-winning economic development program.
virginia-blue-oversizeBotetourt County Tourism Manager, Lisa Moorman says, “Botetourt County is primed to promote agritourism with a vibrant local foods movement, the activities of our brewery, wineries, farms and markets, and strong local leadership to preserve our scenic beauty and quality of life.” Moorman, who also serves on the Fields of Gold Steering Committee, believes “The Fields of Gold marketing efforts should be a boon to the whole region.”
Combining agriculture with tourism is the perfect recipe for creating a vibrant agritourism program in the Shenandoah Valley. Fields of Gold is a collaborative regional economic development program currently serving eight counties and five cities in the Shenandoah Valley: Counties of Augusta, Bath, Botetourt, Highland, Page, Rockbridge, Rockingham, and Shenandoah and the Cities of Buena Vista, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Staunton, and Waynesboro. Focusing on promoting the Shenandoah Valley as an agritourism destination, creating and retaining jobs on the farm, expanding tourism jobs off the farm, increasing opportunities for the general public to enjoy the many faces of agriculture and nurturing an environment for entrepreneurism are the primary goals of the program.
The term “agritourism” embraces many farming and farm-related activities, including:
  • Farmer’s markets
  • On-farm retail markets and roadside stands
  • On-farm fee fishing
  • Farm tours
  • Farm lodging
  • Pick Your Own Farms
  • Christmas tree farms, nurseries and orchards
  • Corn mazes
  • Agricultural-related museums and festivals
  • Wineries, Breweries, and Cideries
  • Farm-to-Table Restaurants
 Agritourism has demonstrated a strong potential to attract local residents as well as tourists visiting or passing through Botetourt County.  It’s a many-faceted appeal, involving the area’s scenic beauty, the allure of “getting off the beaten track”; the fun of visiting an operating farm, orchard, mill, or vineyard, and the pleasure of buying locally produced foods and other products.
“Marketing efforts are critical to Jeter Farm’s agritourism event in the fall because we are only open for one month,” says Rose Jeter. “By letting people know we are here and when we are open, the Fields of Gold program can help us attract more people by marketing directly to those interested in visiting agritourism businesses in our region.”
Blue Ridge Vineyard is another local business in favor of promoting agritourism. “We’re excited about participating in Fields of Gold as we focus on agritourism at our vineyard. We are keeping Virginia rural by maintaining our farm as a destination site of agritourism activities,” says owner, Barbara Kolb.
Planning grant funds received from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, Virginia Tourism Corporation and Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services are being used to conduct the Botetourt County survey, study the impact of agritourism on the local economy and market the region as an agritourism destination. Botetourt County residents who operate a business suitable for agritourism marketing seasonally, year-around, part-time or full-time are encouraged to fill out an on-line survey that can be found at: www.surveymonkey.com/s/Fields_of_Gold
For more information on the Fields of Gold initiative and how to participate, contact Botetourt County Tourism at (540)473-1167, the CSPDC at (540)885-5174 or visit www.fieldsofgold.org.

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