BY DAVID TRIMMER
COURTHOUSE — Greetings to everyone! I hope and trust all of you are having a wonderful spring and looking forward to Memorial Day weekend and the 35th Annual Pungo Strawberry Festival.
The event is a wonderful city of Virginia Beach legacy event that truly symbolizes the spirit of a community such as Pungo and our city. The event brings to light one of our precious gems — agriculture, with a special focus on strawberries for this weekend.
We all know our southern part of the city is known for strawberries, but it also means much, much more. Agriculture is an important part of our city and its economic vitality.
The estimated 2017 economic impact for agriculture is $130.2 million. This number takes into account our crop production numbers for corn, wheat and soybeans, as well as fruits, vegetables, ornamentals, pasture, aquaculture, equine, livestock and agritourism.
The $130.2 million impact marks a 4.5 percent increase over 2016, and it is 9.2 percent over the 2013 impact number. The five year average impact of the agriculture industry on our local economy is estimated at $123 million per year.
Agriculture as an industry is strong in our city, as well as in the region and state. State Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring visited Virginia Beach on May 11 for the Pungo Strawberry Festival media day as well as to visit some farms and get a feel for agriculture in our city. Her interest in our city’s agriculture as well as our commitment to agriculture as a city is a model for other localities in the state — and the number one industry in Virginia is agriculture and forestry.
Virginia Beach is the largest city in the state, and we are blessed with a diverse and viable agriculture industry, which compliments all the wonderful traits our city has to offer with our military, tourism, greenspace, neighborhoods and citizens.
A key to our growth and sustainability of our agricultural industry is the agriculture reserve program, known as the ARP. The program recently was a big topic as part of the city’s FY18-19 budget process. However, the strong support of the community, businesses, city leadership and parties inside and outside Virginia Beach maintained the program as is.
The ARP currently has 9,722 acres enrolled, and we have purchased 858 development rights to help keep farmland working as farmland.
Farming is an industry, and good land serves as the foundation for that industry. As we know, we can never take anything for granted.
Thank you to all of you, especially those who have found this column during the Pungo Strawberry Festival, and have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.
Trimmer is the director of agriculture for the city of Virginia Beach. Visit vbgov.com/agriculture for more information about the department and the industry it supports.
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