In 2010, I was fortunate enough to work with a great group of people at the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development on a project called “Fields of Gold”. The Fields of Gold initiative is a project designed to coordinate, market and promote agritourism and economic development in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I had been to this region on many occasions and thought I knew a lot about its agricultural economy. However, as the “Fields of Gold” project began to grow, I became increasingly aware that my knowledge of the region was limited and rudimentary. I had only seen the tip of the iceberg. I soon began to realize that the Shenandoah Valley is the” agricultural juggernaut” of Virginia!
I came to a similar realization when my VALOR II classmates and I visited the Shenandoah Valley for our third leadership seminar. Our visit to this region exposed me to farming operations and people that are making significant and tremendous impacts on the agricultural economy. From visiting the Shreckhise Nurseries, Cave View Dairy, Houff’s Feed & Fertilizer and even the Weyers Cave Volunteer Fire Department and the many other places, this was a truly valuable educational experience. This session and our visits to these diverse agricultural enterprises throughout the Valley increased my understanding of the region exponentially.
An extremely beneficial and impactful part of our session was interacting with the Fellows from the inaugural VALOR class. I learned so much from the discussions and panel’s insights. The genuine hospitality, good food and great insights from the people made this session an outstanding experience. Additionally, I had the honor and privilege to conduct an appreciative interview with Mr. Ed Long, Jr., a long-time, legendary educator and true inspirational leader from the region.
At the conclusion of our visit to the Shenandoah Valley, there was no doubt in my mind that this region truly “gets it” when it comes to agricultural and economic development. From the people, to the farms, to the beautiful natural resources, this region is connecting the dots to provide strong economic opportunities. The Shenandoah Valley “gets it”!