Va. state agencies seek to inform during ag week

Today is National Agriculture Day and, for farms and agricultural agencies, it is a chance to inform the public about one of the county’s largest industries.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared the week of March 15-21 as “Virginia Agriculture Week” as well as the state’s fifth “Agriculture Literacy Week.”

Local agencies here in the state — such as the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Shenandoah County Farm Bureau — are chiming in on the celebrations.

For example, the Shenandoah County branch of the bureau hosted the first of two screenings of a documentary called “Farmland” on Tuesday.

The film was directed by James Moll and depicts six young farming families as they struggle to cope with the challenges of the agricultural industry.

Nathaniel Dirting, of the Shenandoah County Farm Bureau, said, “I thought it would be a good video to show to the public.”

On why the bureau chose “Farmland,” Dirting said, “We’re only 2 percent of the population, so we need to communicate with the public and be transparent. I see that as a void and something we need to work on as an industry.”

With this week’s screenings, Dirting said the goal was also to get local restaurants, such as Woodstock Café, to showcase locally grown products.

“We’re hoping to put the two together and show that there are some local businesses that are highlighting some local foods,” Dirting said.

Informing the public is also a major goal of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service this week.

“I think you would have a hard time arguing with the fact that it is the most important industry because, if you don’t eat, you die,” said Elaine Lidholm, department director of communications.

According to Lidholm, the department is seeking to “remind people how important agriculture is.”

With this being the fifth Agriculture Literacy Week, Lidholm said that the relatively new tradition has grown slightly in the last five years.

Throughout the week, agency officials, livestock veterinarians and representatives are visiting various elementary schools statewide — 50 in total — in order to inform students about the state’s largest industry.

“We think that one way to reach general consumers is to reach the kids,” she said, “If you can talk to 20 kids … they go home and tell their parents and grandparents.”

Alongside the agricultural literacy programs, the department is urging residents to thank local farmers this week.

The department has also created quizzes for residents of all ages to test their knowledge of Virginia agriculture.

More information about the department’s agriculture week event, activities and quizzes can be found at http://tinyurl.com/la5samm.

The next screening of “Farmland” will take place at the Woodstock Community Theater in historic downtown Woodstock at 5 p.m. March 21.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com