Column: Celebrating Virginia Beach’s agricultural heritage — and a leading modern industry

David Trimmer, Virginia Beach Agriculture Director [File/The Independent News]

Ed. — This column originally ran in print on Friday, May 24, prior to the Pungo Strawberry Festival.


COURTHOUSE — What a great time of year, for spring is here and the farmers are busy working in the fields. Regardless of the size of the farm operations, something is going on. The strawberries are ripe and ready. We need to all help spread the word that our strawberry farmers are loaded with wonderful Pungo strawberries for pick-your-own customers as well as pre-pick.

Speaking of strawberries and Pungo, the 36th annual Pungo Strawberry Festival nears as I write this. The festival is a great way to spend Memorial Day weekend, with participants numbering around 150,000 each year. That spells agritourism dollars for Virginia Beach as well as our farm community and those that take part in the festival.

It truly is one of the city’s premier legacy events.

I offer the highest accolades to the men and women who volunteer their time managing, operating and working at the event. Their hard work and commitment are only outdone by the fact that funds raised by the Pungo Strawberry Festival stay in the city, helping with scholarships, schools and many local charities. Hats off to all those that take part in this event.

The agriculture season is up and rolling and looking to rebound after the often wet 2018 season. Mother Nature challenged the farming community, as well as home owners in our city and region. The resiliency of the farmers is often on display, and everyone is back at it.  The 2018 economic impact numbers for agriculture for Virginia Beach showed a 4.5 percent growth in dollars over 2017. The growth was not across all segments of agriculture, for some areas showed increases and others were down on dollar value. The industry impact of Agricultural products was estimated at $136 million.

The goal now is looking ahead to this year and, as I stated above, what a better way to start then our strawberry season?  We all know there is nothing better than a Pungo strawberry. Time to pick and roll! Check out The Independent News for a listing of the Strawberry Farm operations here in Virginia Beach.  I am thankful for the paper’s support of the agriculture industry as well as the local community.

I appreciate that The Independent News provides me the opportunity to offer up some points of interest because there is a lot going on with agriculture in Virginia Beach.  Agriculture is the third largest industry in the city, and agriculture and forestry comprise the largest industry in Virginia.  This past weekend at the Virginia Beach Farmers Market, we celebrated strawberries with the annual Strawberry Jamboree. The event was in the center circle of the market, with live music, crafts and activities for children.

It was a great day of fun, and more are on the way at the market. Our event on June 22 is the Honey Festival, which has always been a large event and great time.

For planning purposes, which includes farm land preservation, estate planning, generational farming and operating planning, I would recommend the consideration of the Virginia Beach Agriculture Reserve Program, or ARP. 

This program currently has 9,873 acres enrolled and has purchased 867 development rights that will preserve farmland for future generations. Good land serves as the foundation for our agriculture industry.

My final thought I will leave you with is the agriculture area of the city supports families, homes, businesses including agriculture’s small, medium and large farm operations. It provides employment, local food sources, recreation, green space, a habitat for wild life and adds so much to the environment we live in and cherish.

We take nothing for granted, and we are grateful for what we have.

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.

© 2019 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

The Independent News

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