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Study: Agritourism impact on Shenandoah Valley economy

Fresh data from an economic impact study titled The Economic and Fiscal Impacts of Agritourism in Virginia indicates that businesses along the Shenandoah Valley’s Fields of Gold Farm Trail contribute significantly to the region’s economy.

The study, which reviewed the agritourism industry across the Commonwealth of Virginia, was conducted by Dr. Vince Magnini with the Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business and released in April. It shows that the Shenandoah Valley has the third highest number of venues in the state at 237(including places like farm-based vineyards, breweries, and distilleries).

Over 735,000 local visitors and 533,000 non-local visitors came to agritourism sites in the valley in 2015, spending a total of $255.8 million, with an overall revenue of nearly $363 million. $22.6 million was contributed to state and local taxes.

According to the study, Virginia’s agritourism industry overall accounts for $2.2 billion in economic activity. The report also shows that the economic activity attributed to the Commonwealth’s 1,400 agritourism businesses supports 22,000 jobs, generates $840 million in income, and injects $135 million in state and local taxes. The study is the first statewide benchmark report to measure the economic and fiscal impacts of Virginia’s agritourism sector.

Augusta County and Rockingham County were two of four counties that contributed as financial partners in the study. Augusta and Rockingham are the top two ag-producing counties in the state, and are among two of thirteen localities that are part of the Fields of Gold program. Staff from the counties and the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission (CSPDC) served on the State Agritourism Study Committee.  The study was also funded by The Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund through the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), and coordinated by Virginia Cooperative Extension.

The Fields of Gold Farm Trail was initiated in 2012 to promote the region’s farms and their products. It currently covers eight counties and five cities, and has 230 participating farm-related businesses, which the study shows have substantial economic impact in the region. Fields of Gold is coordinated by the CSPDC, and supports the start-up and growth of these ag-related businesses through comprehensive market planning, educational workshops, and business support services.

For the visitor interested in learning about or participating in local agriculture, the Fields of Gold website is a one-stop resource for trip planning that includes on- and off-farm features and activities to explore, as well as social media and newsletter options for keeping up with various aspects of the region’s agritourism industry.

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