Loudoun photo by Susan VanEppsLoudoun Producer                                                                          December 2013
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Meet Beth Sastre, Horticulturalist
Are you a current agricultural producer, or thinking of becoming one in 2014? Now is a great time to visit the Loudoun office of the Virginia Cooperative Extension, where Beth Sastre is on staff as a commercial horticulturalist. Whether you're an experienced producer or a newcomer to the field, she welcomes everyone who comes in the door -- bring your weeds, your pests or your plants in hand. With multiple degrees and years of related research to guide her, chances are very good she's seen it all before. Read more.
New, Profitable Events at Farm Tour

"All visitors seem to love coming out and just hanging around. I have received many emails thanking us for opening up the farm to them." - Such were the positive sentiments expressed in the recent follow-up survey of Loudoun County Fall Farm Tour participants. This year's tour featured 42 farms, wineries and distilleries, with many of the locations open exclusively for the two-day Department of Economic Development event. Some venues also added new activities just for the weekend.

"We did a unique tour versus just a regular tasting," said one winery in the anonymous survey. "[It was an] outdoor, progressive tasting, [with] fun educational facts about how to make wine. People LOVED it! We plan to do this unique experience again."

Participation in the tour also proved profitable. Eighty percent of businesses reported increased sales over their usual weekends, and $60,300 in revenue was reported. One hundred percent of survey respondents plan to participate in the future.

Fencing Funds on the Horizon

There's news at Loudoun Soil and Water: funding from the Commonwealth of Virginia now allows the Loudoun Conservation District to fund up to the entire cost for landowner fencing that keeps livestock out of streams (up to $4.44 per foot for fencing meeting district specifications). Unfortunately, funds are exhausted -- for right now.

"It's kind of a good news/bad news situation," said Chris Van Vlack, Loudoun Soil and Water technician. "It's good that we are getting the money out there, bad we don't have more to offer. Right now we are still taking sign-ups, but with the understanding that folks probably will not have any money approved for their project until next July when we enter our next fiscal year." Contact Soil and Water for more information.

Epicurience Results Released

The stats are in from this summer's first-ever Epicurience destination food and wine fest, and show that the event succeeded in attracting a highly educated group of attendees who were pleased to spend time and money in Loudoun County.

According to Visit Loudoun, nearly 98 percent of the 1,200 attendees at the themed tastings, teas, dinners and live entertainment events were couples, with an average age of 45. Nearly 90 percent held college degrees. Of those attending, almost 95 percent expressed interest in returning to the event next year.

"Visit Loudoun was pleased with the first year's event," said Jackie Saunders, VP of marketing for Visit Loudoun. "We had good turnout, attendees had positive feedback, and we expect that to build over the next few years."

Lucketts to Moscow: Holly Heider Chapple Reaches Russia

 Twenty-one years into her successful floral and event-design business, Holly Heider Chapple, along with husband and operations manager Evan Chapple, ventured from Lucketts to Moscow and Saint Petersburg last month. The trip was born from a customer contacting the Chapples from Russia through their company website, and led to the opportunity for them to share their knowledge of the wedding-floral business, provide information about their Chapel Designers program, and teach floral-design classes in both cities.

Holly Heider Chapple wrote a series blog posts with extensive photos of their experience. In her posts, she shared stories from her sold-out classes, and said that the entire adventure was
"... beyond anything I could have imagined. Everything was perfect. There are no words to describe the beauty of this entire experience. I love my new friends. I truly love them!"

AFD Report to Feature Improvements

Significant improvements to the Loudoun implementation of the Virginia Agricultural and Forestal Districts Program will be highlighted in the upcoming Loudoun County AFD annual report. The January 2014 document is in final review, and the improvements listed were developed by the Agricultural District Advisory Committee along with county staff. Some of the changes include:

  • For the first time, an online AFD entry form will allow for the automatic collection of data on how program enrollees are using their land. The form will be tested by county staff for rollout to the public in the next year. Data collected can be run for reports and used to generate statistics which can help the Board of Supervisors see the value of the AFD Program. The information can also be used by our rural team to focus on business development in western Loudoun County.
  • AFD applications were added into Loudoun's Online Land Applications System, making them easily accessible to the public.
  • An audit was conducted to ensure that all AFD data is current and accurate in Loudoun County Government's land data and mapping systems.
  • AFD documents were created and approved by the county attorney to ensure that the program is adhering to all state and local requirements.
  • Individual AFD maps, as well as a large comprehensive AFD map, were created and posted online for public and internal use.

The report will also show that as of 2013, more than 44,000 acres -- 13 percent of all land in the county -- are currently placed in an agricultural district through the program. The land is contained in 24 agricultural districts, and in 1,233 of the 3,000 eligible parcels countywide.

Where's Warren

Loudoun berry grower Warren Howell is always up for an adventure. With each edition of Loudoun Producer we test your knowledge by sending him to an undisclosed Loudoun ag-business. Act fast! Email us his location by December 27  and be entered to win a very special ag product as a prize.

Warren HowellHere's your hint: This month, we visited the greenhouse of this 16-year-old business. Plants are lovingly grown by the owner, not for weeks, but for many months and years. Many of the exotic, tree-loving species came to Loudoun as young, delicate plants from points of origin as far away as Africa, the Philippines and the Caribbean. The very popular Phalaenopsis varieties are also thriving here, thanks to a trade agreement allowing potted imports from Taiwan. Local customers drop for showy, fragrant plants that make great gifts, while species collectors drive hundreds of miles to purchase the more unusual varieties, some of which feature pungent, rotting aromas.


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