Families can create memories with Virginia agritourism opportunities

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Visitors to Virginia’s agritourism venues have said the experiences help them bond with family and friends, enjoy the outdoors and sometimes even experience something new. They also like to purchase local food, beer, cider or wine and other products.

The delight of young and old customers alike have helped fuel the interest in agritourism operations. “It’s affordable, family fun,” remarked Barry Allen, co-owner of Pumpkinville in the Williamsburg area. His pick-your-own pumpkin operation includes two corn mazes, a pumpkin patch and a general store.

Blue Ridge Pumpkins LLC in Carroll County is a similar operation. Both farms cater to local families and school groups, and the owners of both say they love what they do. Barry Iroler started Blue Ridge Pumpkins five years ago after he retired from a career in the tobacco industry.

Dr. Mitzi Batterson, whose family owns and operates James River Cellars Winery in Hanover County, explained that “more and more people are looking for an educational experience. Agritourism allows people to see, feel and touch a very small piece of what agriculture is like.”

A recent study conducted by Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business found that about 7.2 million guests visited 1,400 Virginia agritourism operations in 2015.

“It’s not surprising that agritourism is so popular right now,” noted Tony Banks, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation commodity marketing specialist. “It combines our two top industries—agriculture and tourism—and provides families with quality experiences out in the country.”

It’s not just in Virginia; agritourism is growing across the U.S. The 2007 Census of Agriculture reported 10,249 farms with agritourism and related recreational activities; the 2012 census found 13,334 farms.

According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, Virginia’s top five agritourism counties were Loudoun with 50 operations; Fauquier, 36; Albemarle, 25; Tazewell, 23; and Pittsylvania, 21.

You can search for agritourism businesses near you on the Virginia Department of Agriculture’s Virginia Grown finder on its website: vdacs.virginia.gov/vagrown/

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