Together, agriculture and forestry make up the No. 1 industry in Virginia with an economic impact of $79 billion annually. To help maintain the continued growth and vitality necessary to support that premiere status, 10 Virginia localities include on their rosters an Agricultural Development Officer or Economic Development staff with agricultural development responsibilities.

At the suggestion of Todd P. Haymore, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), this group of agricultural development experts joined forces with VDACS Agribusiness Development Services recently to establish an informal organization in which members can offer assistance, information and advice about reaching their shared goals and take advantage of opportunities for education and networking.

VDACS hosted the initial meeting of Virginia Agricultural Development Officers (VADO) in Richmond in November. Representatives from Bedford, Fauquier, Fluvanna, Halifax, Isle of Wight, King and Queen, Loudoun, Nelson and Pittsylvania Counties and the city of Virginia Beach participated along with staff from VDACS’ Agribusiness Development Services.

“The existence of these positions shows localities value the significant contribution agriculture makes to the local economy and quality of life,” said Haymore. “All the members of this group have the common objective of promoting and developing Virginia agriculture and agricultural businesses. By coming together, they can benefit from their shared experiences, and enhance their individual efforts,” said Haymore.

The work of agricultural development officials varies greatly. The bottom line is doing what it takes to expand the agriculture industry in Virginia. It may include helping to connect growers and buyers, serving as an information resource, assisting with business plans, facilitating site selection or working with regulatory authorities.