Economic development staff and government leaders will gather to explore innovative strategies for promoting tourism activities in the agricultural sector on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 5-6, at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in Halifax, Virginia. The event is co-sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Participants can register online for the conference before Friday, March 25, for a one day cost of $95 or both days for $135.

Over 50 speakers will deliver dynamic, relevant, and interactive presentations on opportunities and challenges for agritourism entrepreneurs. Participants will explore agritourism topics  including weddings, concerts, social media promotion, marketing, hospitality, regional networks, zoning and conservation, financing and legal structures, wineries and farm craft breweries, bed and breakfast, food and farm safety, farm workforce, and businesses planning.

On Tuesday afternoon, conference participants will tour one of four farms — Hudson Heritage Farms partnering with Greenwood Vineyards; Reese’s Farm FreshHunting Creek Vineyards partnering with Bright Meadows Farm Winery; or Shangrila Guest Ranch.

“Every session is bursting with engaging speakers and tools for Virginia’s agritourism industry,” said Martha Walker, community viability specialist for Extension. “Our state planning team has secured an outstanding lineup of experts to share their knowledge. Anyone working with agritourism will want to be in Halifax County for this conference."

Denise Hudson with Hudson’s Farm Feed and Hudson Heritage Farms is also offering a pre-conference workshop on Monday, April 4, and a farm-to-table dinner on Tuesday evening.

Special guests include:

o   Maurice Jones, secretary of commerce and trade;

o   Todd Haymore, secretary of agriculture and forestry;

o   Danny Marshall, House of Delegates and chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources; and

o   Mary Rae Carter, special advisor for rural partnerships.

The conference is sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension, Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission, Farm Credit, Virginia Association of Counties, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia FAIRS, Virginia Tourism Corporation, and USDA Rural Development.

For more information, contact Martha A. Walker by e-mail or via telephone at 434-766-6761. 

Virginia Cooperative Extension brings the resources of Virginia's land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to the people of the commonwealth. Through a system of on-campus specialists and locally based educators, it delivers education in the areas of agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, community viability, and 4-H youth development. With a network of faculty at two universities, 107 county and city offices, 11 agricultural research and Extension centers, and six 4-H educational centers, Virginia Cooperative Extension provides solutions to the problems facing Virginians today.

Written by Amy Loeffler

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