Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Virginia State University, Virginia Cooperative Extension, The University of Virginia, and the Virginia Food System Council recently released the "Virginia Farm to Table Plan: A Strategic Plan for Strengthening Virginia’s Food System and Economic Future."
Virginia families and households spend more than $19 billion annually on food purchases, according to the plan’s authors. These food dollars can be a powerful economic driver for Virginia’s farm and food economy, according to Eric Bendfeldt, a community viability specialist with Extension and the plan’s lead author. A Virginia Cooperative Extension study estimates that if each household spent $10 of its food budget on locally-grown, Virginia food each week, year round $1.65 billion would be generated annually in direct economic impact.
This entrepreneurial initiative contains 38 distinct recommendations related to business and production management, market development, food system planning, management and policy, food security, food safety, diet and health, and implementation. The plan has already generated interest, enthusiasm and energy, specifically for the $10 per week challenge to encourage Virginia households to buy $10 of locally-grown, Virginia food and farm products each week, year round.
“This plan envelopes community viability, economic impact; the viability of farm land, and economic development for rural communities,” said Bendfeldt. “This plan also meets an unprecedented consumer demand for local and regionally-grown foods, and identifies marketing opportunities for locally-grown food products.”
This plan, the product of an inclusive and in-depth process of information gathering and research, informs and addresses key issues facing farmers, food entrepreneurs, communities, and engaging agencies, organizations, and institutions. Representatives from the Virginia Food System Council, and 1,920 participants in farm-to-table summits, forums, listening sessions and the 2nd Virginia Food Security Summit examined the recommendations.
A copy of the Plan can be downloaded from Virginia Cooperative Extension’s publication website. Additional resources related to the plan can be found at on the Virginia Food System Council and the Virginia Farm to Table websites.
For more information about the Plan, contact Eric Bendfeldt, Extension community viability specialist, at 540-432-6029, or Crystal Tyler-Mackey, Extension community viability specialist, 804-524-5494.