Fields of Gold Campaign Aims to Boost Valley Agritourism
With the potential for millions of dollars in revenue, agritourism can be fertile ground. A new campaign known as Fields of Gold aims to bring visitors to the farms and festivals of the Shenandoah Valley.
Fields of Gold aims to link farms, wineries, ranches and country inns that combine to show visitors what comes naturally to the Shenandoah Valley. The agritourism trail hopes to lure millions in spending to six partnering counties. The first step is getting farmers on board.
The Frontier Culture Museum shows visitors how their ancestors farmed this land. So the Staunton museum is the ideal place to teach the next generation of agritourism.
Bruce McWilliams with the Fields of Gold Committee said, "I love this marriage. And it's just a no-brainer to me that the farm should not be part the tourist experience - particularly in a rural area."
The Fields of Gold initiative aims to link dozens - maybe hundreds - of agritourism sites in the Shenandoah Valley.
Elizabeth McCarty with the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission said, "We have trout farms, farm stays, corn mazes, you-pick strawberries."
Not to mention wineries with tasting rooms and vineyard tours, horse farms offering riding lessons, and overnight stays. So far the Shenandoah planning district has gotten inquiries from 120 potential partners.
"We are mapping those sites," said McCarty. "We are in the middle of an economic impact analysis."
That should reveal what revenue Fields of Gold could bring to farmers and localities, and how many jobs it might create. This workshop helps producers consider things like insurance and liability, and marketing to tourists and students.
Sandra Tanner with the Virginia Tourism Corporation said, "You can build your school group program - or your program in order to get the school groups to come in - by based on what the SOLs are for that grade."
Organizers hope to show farmers that with careful planning agritourism can be fertile ground.
"The exciting part - but a big challenge - is to talk to people about a new concept," said McWIlliams.
The Fields of Gold agritourism study should be finished by the end of October. The project has earned a $40,000 planning grant from the state.
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