The works of skilled crafters and the lure of locally grown and prepared foods make up the stops on a new tourism trail.
It's known as Heart and Soil, and it showcases things and people unique to Augusta County.
Heart and Soil is the newest section of path in the statewide heritage trail built by the nonprofit Artisans Center of Virginia. It aims to be hyper-local, giving visitors shopping experiences, tastes and entertainment they can find literally nowhere else.
Artist Laurie Gundersen gets to make a living doing what she loves and loves to share.
"I'm always working; I'm always doing my craft. I just really enjoy meeting the people that are interested in the things that I do," Gundersen said.
Gundersen creates high-quality textiles and baskets at her studio and shop Appalachian Piecework in downtown Staunton. Hers is among nearly 50 of the trail's stops through Augusta County.
"The idea of having people meandering is very appealing to me, and having them happen upon a place that is kind of magical," Gundersen said.
The Artisans Center of Virginia tries to harness that magic into the self-guided Heart and Soil tour.
"Look at the handmade works, meet the artist who is actually making something that you may enjoy taking home with you. Taste the local foods. A lot of the restaurants on the program actually are using foods that are produced here by farms in region," said Sherri Smith, director of the Artisans Center of Virginia.
This trail-launch celebration comes after a year of work to recruit artisans and develop marketing tools. Organizers say the trail complements the new "fields of gold" program which showcases valley agriculture.
"If a visitor wants to come to an area and see a work from artisans, then they'll also want to see an agritourism site," said Sheryl Wagner, director of Staunton tourism.
"We want visitors to go on one trail, love it so much that they want to go on the next trail and the next trail and the next trail," Smith said.
Those stops include the Monticello Trail through Albemarle and Nelson counties. For details, click here.
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