Former tobacco farmers who now grow vegetables had much to celebrate on September 23.
It was then that regional farmers, local leaders and state dignitaries gathered at the future site of a 45,000 square foot, 4.2 million square foot product processing and packaging facility. dollars, which will be operated by Old Dominion Organic Farms.
This public-private partnership of Southern Virginia Vegetable Packing LLC and the Brunswick County Industrial Development Authority was started to help farmers capitalize on demand for organic vegetables. In its first season, the company is expected to add nearly $ 24 million to revenue generated from vegetables grown in Virginia, create 40 new jobs and support more than 22 farmers in Amelia, Brunswick, Dinwiddie, Lunenburg counties. , Mecklenburg, Prince George and Surry.
“Historically, farmers in this region have grown tobacco, but we know demand has declined and prices and production have fallen by almost half since 2000,” Governor Ralph Northam said. “But during those same two decades, consumer demand for organic vegetables has exploded, sometimes increasing by more than 10% each year. These changing markets, painful as they are, present a long-term opportunity. “
Brunswick County Agricultural Office Member Jordan Brandon, operator of Old Dominion Organic Farms, came up with the idea for a new facility after experiencing increased demand for organic produce. But switching from tobacco to mainly organic vegetable production required new infrastructure, special equipment and knowledge of organic regulations, he said.
“I didn’t want to enter the conventional vegetable market, but the big chains were asking us to grow more organic produce,” he said. “If we can break through the barriers to entry, there are opportunities for the farmers on the other side. “
Jordan expects construction of the processing and packaging plant to begin this winter.
Organic products grown by Lunenburg County Agricultural Office President Richard Hite will be treated at the facility. His father and grandfather were tobacco farmers.
“The tobacco contracts were cut so badly that I needed another way if I wanted my kids to be able to grow too,” Hite said. “I started to cultivate it and liked it. It’s great for the farmers in the area, for the community and the guys who work for us.
The project is supported by $ 435,000 in grants from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Development Fund to Brunswick County IDA and Brunswick and Lunenburg Counties. The project is also supported by a $ 500,000 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission.