A new study announced today by Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry’s Basil Gooden shows that Northern Virginia generates the most agri-tourism revenue of all 10 state regions, contributing more than $552 million to Virginia’s $2.2 billion agri-tourism industry. Loudoun County farm businesses make up 51 percent of the Northern Virginia’s agri-tourism venues researched for the report. The study was conducted by Virginia Tech, in consultation with the Virginia Tourism Corporation and the Virginia Cooperative Extension. The study was funded by the state, with support from the Virginia Tourism Corporation and the counties of Augusta, Halifax, Loudoun and Rockingham. The study is based on 2015 data collected in 2016.
Loudoun has almost 1,400 farms, and about 13 percent of them participate in the agri-tourism sector, which Virginia code defines as:
“Any activity carried out on a farm or ranch that allows members of the general public, for recreational, entertainment, or educational purposes, to view or enjoy rural activities, including farming, wineries, ranching, historical, cultural, harvest-your-own activities, or natural activities and attractions.”
“In addition to our craft beverage producers, businesses like orchards, Christmas tree farms, livestock farms and equestrian venues attract customers to Loudoun from around the D.C. metro region and beyond,” said Loudoun Economic Development’s Executive Director Buddy Rizer.
The economic impact from visitors to Virginia agri-tourism venues is $1.5 billion, according to the report. About 83 percent of the money spent during their visits goes towards off-farm expenses like hotels, restaurants and gas. Two-thirds of these visitors are considered agri-tourists because they travel from more than 50 miles away to visit agri-tourism venues.
“We’ve had families come from as far away as New York and Pennsylvania for Loudoun farm tours,” said Loudoun Agricultural Business Development Officer Kellie Hinkle. This year the Loudoun Spring Farm Tour is May 20-21, and features 50 venues. Details can be found at LoudounFarms.org.
“This study underscores the value of Loudoun’s thriving agricultural economy, and the impact it has on jobs, the tax revenue collected by the county, and the retail and hospitality industries,” Rizer added. The list of 182 Loudoun farms that participated in the study can be found at biz.loudoun.gov/agri-tourism-venues.