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Agriculture
ProduceTradition
Dinwiddie has long tradition in agribusiness and food production, with a network of industry-related suppliers locally based to serve farmers and food manufacturers.

Innovation
Dinwiddie is located within short distances to state universities that are pioneering innovations in agriculture and food and energy production, and educating and graduating capable workforce for industry

Prevalence
Dinwiddie has vast amount of land available for agriculture use and there is a strong agriculture production in county.

Revenue
Farms cover approximately 8 million acres, or 32% Virginia’s total land area, creating an ever-demanding market for supply and maintenance needs. Virginia agriculture production generates over $2 billion in total output with a long history of productive soils.

Agritourism in Dinwiddie

The County, a long time haven for homegrown entrepreneurs and organic food, has put a new spin on zoning regulations for traditional farms and agribusiness types within its borders, by enacting the Agritourism Ordinance.  First adopted by county leadership in November 2010, the new ordinance allows agriculturally-based properties to open their grounds to visitors interested in taking tours, making on-site product purchases and overall partaking in a local farm as a tourist attraction.  This innovative ordinance is in effect, and paves the way for more foot traffic of the destination hotspot sort.

Mark Bassett, director of planning for Dinwiddie County, shares detail on the need-to-know elements of the ordinance for would-be agritourism entrepreneurs, here:

Please sum up what the agritourism ordinance stipulates.

Mark Bassett:
  The Agritourism Ordinance allows for agritourism activities and the ancillary activities to further develop in the agricultural areas of the County, and given the agricultural nature of the uses and activities, there are minimum development and Building Code standards and exemptions and review requirements.

And what does the new agritourism ordinance mean for the county? 


MB:
  The Ordinance adds agritourism as a by-right use, subject to compliance with other code requirements, in all agriculturally-zoned areas and in certain residentially-zoned areas where agricultural uses already existed in the County, prior to this Ordinance.

The ordinance defines “agritourism activity” as “any agricultural activity that allows members of the general public, for recreational, entertainment, or educational purposes, to view or enjoy rural activities,” which is designed to be conducted in connection with an agricultural use.  The Ordinance provides examples of common agritourism uses, such as farmers' markets, and the requirements applicable to agritourism in general and certain specific agritourism activities.  It also describes “ancillary activities,” activities which are not as closely related to agriculture but may enhance the overall agritourism experience, provides examples of common ancillary activities, such as petting farms and hayrides, and the requirements applicable to ancillary activities in general and certain specific activities.

Who qualifies to undertake agritourism?


MB:  Agritourism businesses primarily sell agricultural products or services derived from the farmland, crops, or animals located on the site of the farm where the agritourism business is located.  There are multiple types of agritourism activities, including aquaculture, cider mills, farms and ranches that feature farm markets, seasonal self-pick fruit and vegetable operations, seasonal outdoor mazes (corn or straw mazes), farm stays, farm wineries, meat shops, and greenhouses.

How does a farm owner get started in order to take advantage of this new ordinance?


MB:  If an individual is interested in getting started as an agritourism business, they should review the Agritourism Ordinance and also come by and meet with the Planning staff to review their business plan to be sure it is an allowable agritourism activity.

Aside from having to be a Dinwiddie-based business, does farm location matter?


MB:  Any agricultural land in the A-1, A-2 Zoning Districts that includes a conforming agricultural use and any agricultural land in the R-R, R-1 Zoning Districts with a legal nonconforming agricultural use existing as of November 16, 2010 in the County may be suited for an agritourism activity as long as it meets the provisions of the Agritourism Ordinance.  

The Dinwiddie County Division of Planning and Community Development invite existing and perspective farmland owners interested in agritourism to contact the office for guidance and technical assistance.  Staff from the division’s Economic Development branch also is available for any questions or help business owners may need.  Both can be reached at 804-469-4500.