While the technology and service sectors of Virginia’s economy continue to grow, agriculture remains the largest industry. According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture, the industry provides more than 357,000 jobs in the Commonwealth and accounts for $55 billion of economic activity. The top counties in farm employment are Pittsylvania, Rockingham, Augusta, Loudoun, and Northampton, which accounted for approximately 18 percent of state agricultural employment in 2007.

Traditional crops such as wheat, soybeans, tobacco, and peanuts remain important agricultural staples. In the last few decades, other products have achieved prominence as well. Grape and wine production (pictured here) have increased dramatically, with the number of wineries growing from six in 1979 to 130 in 2007, ranking Virginia 8th nationally for acreage and grape production (Department of Agriculture). In 2007, tomatoes replaced soy as Virginia’s number one cash crop, ranking Virginia third in the nation in the production of fresh market tomatoes.

Farms, orchards, wineries, and historic plantations contribute to a growing “agritourism” industry, attracting Virginians and visitors to experience Virginia’s agricultural products where they are created. Agritourism is an increasingly important avenue for Virgina farmers to recoup income as farm acreage decreases.

Source: Virginia Tourism Corporation, “Virginia Wine,” still image, 2007, Virginia Tourism Corporation, accessed September 20, 2011.


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