If you build it, they will come.

Sometimes it just takes the right idea.  Sometimes it just takes the right group of people.  It really goes gangbusters when you have the right group of people working on the right idea.  Enter the Olde Dominion Agricultural Foundation in Chatham, VA. The VALOR fellows visited the Olde Dominion Agricultural Complex in Chatham during our January 2014 seminar in Southside, which focused on team building and collaboration.  Fred Wydner, Director of Agribusiness Development for Pittsylvania County, and Robert Mills, Jr., Olde Dominion Agricultural Foundation board member, farmer and active member of the community, treated us to a tour of the facility and shared their experience taking the complex from concept to completion.

The complex is the result of a group of visionary community leaders identifying an opportunity – and need – for their community to support agriculture.  Founded in 2008, this non-profit raised funds to build the complex, which is used for everything from livestock shows to proms, and wine festivals to being the home for the local farmers’ market.  The complex serves the counties of Bedford, Campbell, Franklin, Halifax, Henry and Pittsylvania.

In addition to the meeting, conference and arena space, the complex is home a number of agencies and offices that serve the agricultural industry.  The leased space provides revenue for the Olde Dominion Agricultural Foundation and co-locates service providers for producers.  The question was raised about what the group would do differently if starting over from scratch, and Mills and Wydner were hard-pressed to find anything to change.  The complex has exceeded all of their initial goals for use and funding, and the future looks bright.   When asked if the complex simply took business from existing venues in the area, the response was that it provided a place for new ideas and new events to materialize, adding economic value.  Demand has far outpaced the initial targets, further cementing the fact that there was need for such a facility.  Sometimes an idea just works! Stop in this weekend to see the complex in use as the 2014 IDA Nationals take place.  Collegiate riders from around the country will compete in this outstanding venue.

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