Senate Bill 51, which was approved in the Virginia General Assembly earlier this month and takes effect July 1, limits the power of local governments over farmers. The new law eliminates state and local permitting requirements for farm stores to sell products and host agritourism activities.
Woodwell said the Forum is concerned that the law takes authority away from localities.
"We like our decisions being made at the local level, not the state," she said. "No one knows Shenandoah County's situation better than Shenandoah County."
The Shenandoah Forum created a scholarship fund this year for three graduating Shenandoah County high school students.
One $500 scholarship is available to a student in each of the county's three public high schools who intend to study areas such as agriculture, rural land use, community development, environmental science and natural resource management.
By Ryan Cornell
A new agriculture and farm guide published this spring will make it easier for shoppers to buy items produced in Shenandoah County.
The guide will provide a comprehensive list of the county's farmers markets, farm stands and on-farm produce, including meat, livestock, hay and grain, fibers and wool and restaurants serving locally sourced food.
The guide is being developed by the Shenandoah Forum, a citizen group founded in 2001 that promotes the county's agricultural heritage, the environment and a sustainable economy. A booklet of the listings and agriculture information will be printed in May, and a mobile app that lets smartphone users search by location and product is scheduled to be released this fall.
According to a study by the Virginia Cooperative Extension, $1.2 billion is spent on food each year in the Shenandoah Valley, but only $200 million of that money is derived from locally grown items.
Shenandoah Forum Executive Director Kim Woodwell said that if each household in Shenandoah County spent at least $10 a week on locally sourced food, it would bring $9.6 million in new revenue for local farmers.
Money spent on local agriculture stays within the local economy and strengthens farms, towns and schools.
"It gives you more vibrant towns, more vibrant communities and healthier communities," she said.
It's also become a popular way to "help the neighbors," she added.
"People like to talk to the person who picked the eggs that morning or grows the chickens and ask them questions," she said. "It puts a face and a family to whatever they're doing."
Woodwell said the farm guide aims to be inclusive of all agriculture producers in Shenandoah County. She expects about 75 listings.
Farmers can sign up for a free listing before the April 4 deadline. Applications are available online at the Forum's website at www.shenandoahforum.org or at the Virginia Cooperative Extension office in the county government center, the Shenandoah County Farm Bureau, the county library and local farm stores in Mount Jackson, Woodstock and Strasburg. Farmers can mail their applications to ATTN: Local Farm Guide, Shenandoah Forum, PO Box 654, Woodstock, Va., 22654, or call the Forum at 540-984-7003.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org