Today, Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) announced the creation of the bipartisan Congressional Agritourism Caucus to support the agritourism industry and to highlight its importance to local economies and communities.
Congresswoman Wexton will serve as the Democratic co-chair of the Caucus alongside Congressman David Rouzer (R-NC), who will serve as the Republican co-chair. The Caucus will be officially instituted this fall.
“My district is home to over 230 agritourism businesses, from Loudoun County’s famous vineyards to the apple orchards of the Northern Shenandoah Valley and all of the breweries, distilleries, and farm markets in between,” said Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton. “I am excited to announce the launch of our Congressional Agritourism Caucus as a forum to bring Representatives from across the country together to find ways we can strengthen the agritourism industry in our communities and to highlight the positive impacts they have on our local economies.”
“North Carolina’s agriculture industry is the backbone of our state’s economy -- generating $87 billion in economic activity and employing 730,000 people,” said Congressman David Rouzer. “Agritourism is a growing economic sector nationwide and gives farmers opportunities to find new sources of income, promotes economic stability, and helps visitors from across the nation learn more about what North Carolina’s farms have to offer. I’m proud to co-chair the bipartisan Congressional Agritourism Caucus as we highlight the unique opportunities this sector offers our farm families and work to ensure Washington doesn’t get in the way.”
Agritourism is a commercial enterprise that attracts travelers and visitors to an area used primarily for agricultural purposes. Agritourism businesses provide a range of unique experiences to their communities, including taking a hayride at a pumpkin patch, picking apples at an orchard, and wine tasting at a vineyard. By opening their doors to the public, these businesses, which are often small or family-owned, provide recreational and educational opportunities for the public while also earning additional income for the owners.
Agritourism businesses are present in congressional districts across the country, and the industry is growing. According to the Census of Agriculture, agritourism-related income nationwide increased from $202 million in 2002 to $949 million in 2017 -- a nearly 370% increase.
Over the past few weeks, Congresswoman Wexton has visited a number of agritourism businesses in Clarke and Frederick counties, and will spend this Thursday, August 22, doing the same in Loudoun and Fairfax counties. Before the end of the August recess, Congresswoman Wexton will tour agritourism businesses in Prince William County as well.
In Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, agritourism has been a rapidly growing and successful industry, with over 230 agritourism businesses currently operating.
“Loudoun’s abundance of diverse and popular rural business attractions are not only valuable economic assets, they define our County’s brand and sustain our community’s rich agricultural culture and heritage,” said Tony Howard, President and CEO of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce. “Where else in the world can a business locate where the epicenter of the internet exists just minutes from the nation’s finest wineries and breweries, farms, trails, equestrian facilities? That’s the value of nurturing an agritourism economy.”
“In the Top of Virginia region our farmers and businesses are continuing to find new ways to share the wealth of their land and crops,” said Cynthia Schneider, CEO of the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber. “Newly emerging agritourism offerings are not only helping us to buy local but they are attracting guests to spend extra time here enjoying the taste, smells, and sights of our beautiful region.”
Agriculture is Virginia’s largest industry and has been foundational to the identity of communities in every part of the commonwealth. The growing agritourism industry is a continuation of that legacy. A 2017 study found that the agritourism sector accounts for $2.2 billion in economic activity in Virginia. The economic opportunity that has grown out of Virginia’s agritourism sector supports more than 22,000 full-time equivalent jobs in the commonwealth. These benefits are felt most in rural and suburban areas.
Photos from the Congresswoman's visits to agritourism businesses this week may be found here and are available for use by press.