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June 15, 2013
By Matthew J. Lohr, Commissioner, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services 
Contact: Elaine J. Lidholm, 804.786.7686

The hallmark of Virginia agriculture is its diversity. We have a tremendous variety of products, soils, topography, micro-climates, even climate zones. We also have some very unique features on our farms, and today I invite you to come to Virginia, or roam around a bit if you already live here, and enjoy some of these unique, unusual and maybe even inspiring features at some of our farms and farmers’ markets.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, and I encourage you to go to the agritourism section of our website at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to check out many more offerings: We have categories for farm and forestry museums, agricultural historic sites, farms, orchards, farm vacations, setting for weddings and other special events, camps, wineries, festivals, ag-caching and even pet-friendly events and locations. Where else but in Virginia can you visit farms such as Mount Vernon, Monticello and the Cyrus McCormick Farm?  

Let me give you some examples of unusual things you can see and do on a Virginia farm.

The Virginia Carousel – This working carousel on a farm near Harrisonburg features portrayals of famous Virginians, historic farms and some of Virginia’s agriculture products. attractions/carousel/.

Culinary Classes and Gold Digging – At Cheesecake Farms in Fauquier County (, guests can sign up for individual culinary classes or a Thanksgiving weekend that includes instruction and preparation of a multi-course Thanksgiving dinner. You can bring your horse with you if you want and can pan for gold in their creek.

Fishing and Fly Fishing - Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria, Virginia ( and Casta Line Trout Farms in Goshen ( are two of several working farms that offer fee fishing. Graves Mountain also hosts an annual music festival. Rose River Farm in Madison County ( offers a Western style fly fishing experience for trophy trout. This cattle, hay and peach farm also offers instruction and corporate outings. Escatawba Farm in Covington ( offers fly fishing for trout on a private creek and lake with guided trip and lessons by a Federation of Fly Fishers Certified Fly Casting Instructor.

Oysters right off the boat – Rappahannock River Oysters ( is much more than a water farm. It’s a farm and oyster shack with restaurants in Richmond, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Their Merroir tasting room is right on the banks of the Rappahannock River overlooking the places they grow their oysters. Everything is either served raw or cooked on an outdoor grill, small-plate-style, and paired with wines and craft brews. You couldn’t get oysters any fresher if you dug them yourself.

Birding and Wildlife Trail - Caledonia Farm ( in Rappahannock County is one example of a Virginia farm where you can spend the night or your entire vacation. Nearly 10 percent of this 135-acre beef cattle farm is designated as acreage for wildlife and it is the first stop on Virginia’s statewide Birding and Wildlife Trail.
Ice Cream Makers – College Run Farms in Surry County uses a John Deere Ice Cream Maker to offer a 16 percent butter fat product flavored with their own fresh strawberries and blueberries. The Pakaho dairy farm in Mt. Solon also churns with a John Deere ice cream maker and sells product at farmers’ markets. Chiles Orchards in Crozet makes ice cream with their fresh strawberries and peaches and also produces peach and apple cider slushies to accompany peach or apple donuts. At the Moo Thru in Remington, cows from Cool Lawn Dairy Farm produce 1.4 million gallons of milk annually to make hand dipped/scooped ice cream, soft serve ice cream, milkshakes, sundaes and fresh milk in glass bottles. And at Finchville Dairy in Spotsylvania, owner Sharon Cook developed her own recipe to make goat’s milk gelato that she sells at farmers’ markets.

Gemstone sluice – At Chesterfield Berry Farm ( in Moseley, visitors can pan for gemstones at the sluice. Patrons purchase a bag of mining rough and let the water from the authentic mining sluice rush over the panning tray to remove the dirt. Suddenly instead of a pan of mud, you see beautiful gemstones and minerals. Every bag is different, so you never know what you will get.

Inspirational tours – Lynchburg Grows ( is an urban farm that employs disabled people. Its mission is giving people with special needs a space to share their talents and skills while acquiring new ones. They farm 6.8 acres in historic Lynchburg, with two of those acres spread among nine greenhouses. They offer free tours during open houses held on the first Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

I think you get my point: our Virginia farmers do a whole lot more than grow corn or soybeans or produce meat and poultry. They invite you onto their land for a first-hand, authentic farm experience, and then they throw in some extras you may not find anywhere else.

You can go to and search for agritourism site and pick-your-own farms by county or by zip code. That will give you many more options to find unusual events and activities along with fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, honey, plants, cut flowers and so much more.

You’ve probably heard that Virginia is for Lovers; well, that includes food and farm lovers, too, and I hope you’ll come visit us this summer or fall.

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