WRAP UP: Goodlatte Tours Shenandoah Valley Farms & Agribusinesses
Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) completed a two-day “Ag Tour” in the Shenandoah Valley on Monday and Tuesday to hear from local farmers and producers about federal policies impacting their businesses as well as the upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Bill, which governs an array of agricultural and food programs. Congressman Goodlatte is the former Chair of the House Committee on Agriculture and currently serves as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
Congressman Goodlatte released the following statement:
“Agriculture is strong in the Sixth District. However, there are still some farm sectors suffering from low prices. After making several stops up and down the Shenandoah Valley, it’s easy to see why this is the largest industry in Virginia. Modern agriculture isn’t just a traditional farm. Today’s farmers and agribusinesses are innovating. Ingleside Dairy Farm is using new technology to transform the dairy industry, and Shamrock Farms is hard at work to package more nutritious products and extend the shelf life of their milk products. At Appalachian Woods they are taking old lumber and turning it into beautiful, new flooring. Brix and Columns Vineyards is tapping into the booming agritourism market and helping to prove that Virginia wine can rival any other. The produce for sale at the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction is proof that local farmers take great pride in their work, and the crowds on hand are a testament to the quality as well. Valley Pike Farm is a great example of the next generation of farmers stepping up to the plate, but also a reminder of why we must continue to teach today’s youth about the importance of agriculture. Lastly, the meat processing plant at Baker Farms is representative of how today’s farmers are changing and growing to meet the demands of the market.
“As I spoke with producers about farm policy, agriculture immigration, and the upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Bill, I learned more about which federal programs are working well and which need reforms, what regulations are stifling and which are common sense, and how the federal government can best encourage a robust farm economy. I look forward to taking this information back to Washington as we craft the policies impacting American farms and agribusinesses.”
Roundup of Ag Tour Stops
Ingleside Dairy Farm in Rockbridge County was the first farm in Virginia to use automated milking machines. Roughly 330 cows are milked each day. The automated machines allow the cows to come and go on their own time frame, keep track of the cow’s health and output, and helps ensure the cleanliness of the cows and the milk. Ingleside Dairy Farm is owned and operated by Charlie and Linda Leech and their children.
Appalachian Woods, LLC in Stuarts Draft has been operated by Jonas Hochstetler and his family for 20 years. Appalachian Woods is a leading manufacturer of wide plank traditional and reclaimed hardwood flooring. They give wood that you see in old barns or buildings, like wormy chestnut and hard pine, new life.
Shamrock Farms in Verona processes and packages thousands of units of milk and milk products each day. The plant has only been operating in Augusta County for a few years, but they are already expanding to make room for new production lines and more employees. Much of the milk they use at the plant is sourced from the region.
Brix and Columns Vineyards is one of the newest vineyards in Rockingham County. In addition to growing vines, the Pence family recently opened a new tasting room and also host weddings/special events onsite. This new operation is part of the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail, a network of vineyards that spans much of the Sixth District.
The Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction in Dayton is the largest wholesale auction of its kind in Virginia. From watermelons and hanging flower baskets to some of the largest tomatoes you have ever seen, farmers bring their produce to the auction to sell to local farm stands, restaurants, and individuals. Jeff Heatwole manages the auction.
Matt and Beth Lohr are continuing a family tradition of selling sweet corn at Valley Pike Farm in Broadway. While most folks know it for the annual sweet corn crop, the Lohrs also maintain several poultry houses, raise feeder cattle, and harvest crops, like barley and soybeans. They have big plans to continue expanding the farm as the next generation takes over.
Steve Baker, owner of Baker Farms in Shenandoah County, has raised hogs his whole life, but knew he would need to do more to keep his farm operational in today’s economy. In 2015, Mr. Baker opened a small pork processing plant where they are currently processing nine hogs per week. Baker Farms sells pork to farmer’s markets, schools, and restaurants across Virginia as part of the growing farm-to-table movement.