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Posted January 24, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Strasburg native named Farm Bureau ambassador
By James Heffernan -- Daily Staff Writer
STRASBURG -- Cora Anna Gnegy wants to add a new wrinkle to the state's time-honored tourism slogan.
"Virginia is for agritourism," the 20-year-old Strasburg native and James Madison University student proclaims, reflecting her platform as the 2009 Virginia Farm Bureau Ambassador.
Gnegy was selected for the honor last month at the group's annual convention in Hot Springs. The program, sponsored by the VFBF Women's Committee, recognizes a young woman each year for her interest and achievements in agriculture and provides her with an opportunity to serve as an ambassador for agriculture and the Farm Bureau in the coming year.
Applicants are subject to an interview process and must develop a platform and pass a written test. For her efforts, Gnegy will receive a $1,000 scholarship and serve as a spokeswoman at VFBF events throughout Virginia.
Agritourism is defined by the Virginia Cooperative Extension as "the practice of attracting travelers to an area or areas used for agricultural purposes." It can involve pick-your-own fruits and vegetables, hayrides, wine tastings, produce stands, hand-crafted gifts -- virtually anything related to agriculture and open to the public.
"I definitely see it growing in Virginia," she says. "Tourists are looking for something more, something to make their money go further, or just learning something new."
Gnegy hopes to use her new position to further awareness of the importance of agritourism to the Virginia economy, including advocating for the creation of a new state-level director in Richmond.
"In my research, I've found that other states have [such directors]," she says.
Gnegy's work starts this weekend, when she will travel to the state Capitol as part of the VFBF Young Farmers' Winter Expo. The group will be meeting with legislators Monday and Tuesday to discuss agricultural issues.
As ambassador, Gnegy also plans to develop a public database of agritourism operations in Virginia, beginning with those in the Shenandoah Valley.
"The valley will be a perfect launching point for that," she says, noting the region's many farms, wineries, greenhouses and historical sites.
Gnegy, the daughter of Robert and Karen Gnegy, grew up on her family's 84-acre beef cattle farm outside Strasburg. She says the experience taught her the value of hard work, dedication and family.
"It allowed me to see that that's the kind of atmosphere I want to continue to be in, where family is always close by and hard work is validated. ... It's that closeness of community, and to be able to work with the land and see a product come out of it. That's gratification you can't get from an office."
Gnegy is majoring in business administration at JMU, and one day wants to earn a master's degree in divinity. After college, she plans to continue working on the family farm.
"I definitely see myself having a farm of my own," she says. "It may be sort of a hobby, but farming will definitely always be a part of my life."
Her tenure as Virginia Farm Bureau Ambassador lasts through November.
"One of my goals is to increase participation in the program because it's such a great program."
Contact James Heffernan at firstname.lastname@example.org
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