Executive Summary- Virginia Farm to Table Plan Sep. 2012

Virginia Farm to Table – Healthy Farms and Healthy Food for the Common Wealth and Common Good 1 Executive Summary The Virginia Farm to Table Plan is an initiative that builds on the rich agricultural history and entrepreneurship of Virginia. As long ago as The 1607 Jamestown Settlement, agriculture and innovative farming played a critical role in the establishment and survival of communities. The early settlers of Jamestown learned much from Native Americans about innovative food production and survival in their new environment; crop rotations, planting in rows, fertilizing and composting that allowed the settlers to survive the harsh winters of their new surroundings. of economic means. However, the social, environmental and economic importance of farming and food is often overlooked and under-appreciated by individuals and communities. Agriculture plays a critical role in maintaining a healthy environment especially water resources locally and in the Chesapeake Bay. The social, economic, and environmental impact of Virginia’s food system is profound; therefore, ongoing education is needed to educate individuals, communities, and decision makers about these impacts. Strong healthy communities and local economies will ensure a strong healthy state economy. Because the food system is so fundamental and closely interconnected, its significance for economic vitality and community viability of a particular place cannot be overstated. Virginia’s overall food system directly impacts the survival and viability of farms and farmland, the economic development of rural and urban communities, the resilience of ecological resources, and critical health issues. Thus, healthy farms and healthy food from farm to consumer table can positively impact the common wealth and common good of Virginia. Virginia’s agricultural industry is very diverse with different levels of local, regional, national and international trade. Diversity in the agricultural and food system in the form of farmer background and experience, ownership structure, scale, product, production method, and market strategy is one indicator and measure of sustainability of food supply. The economic impact of Virginia agriculture is reported to be $55 billion annually, with the industry providing more than 357,000 jobs across the state. For every job within the agricultural and forestry sector, another 1.5 jobs is supported as an indirect economic benefit and impact. The annual economic impact results from $2.9 billion in direct agricultural output; $26 billion in value-added industrial output; and an additional $26 billion generated from other agriculturerelated business output. Even with this economic output, there are still more growing and emerging This entrepreneurial and innovative spirit continued and was strengthened by the work of prominent Virginians like George Washington, Thomas Participants at the Shenandoah Valley Farm-to-Table Jefferson, James Madison, Edmund Summit providing key input to the Plan. Ruffin, Cyrus McCormick and others throughout Virginia history. The same entrepreneurial spirit is evident today with Virginia emerging as one of the nation’s leaders in the local food movement (Denckla Cobb, 2011). The Virginia Farm to Table Plan builds on this tradition and strengthens the state’s food system and economic future from the farm to the table. A food system is defined as the production, processing, distribution, sales, purchasing, preparation, consumption, and waste disposal pathways of food. Within each of these sectors and pathways, there are opportunities for job creation, business incubation and expansion, health promotion, improved access to healthy, nutritious food, enhanced environmental stewardship and economic success. A key tenet for the Virginia Farm to Table Plan is that quality food should be affordable and accessible to everyone in Virginia regardless “I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture.” George Washington, First President of the United States A Strategic Plan for Strengthening Virginia’s Food System and Economic Future