The 2019 Farm2Fork Affair’s much-anticipated arrival received a boost Tuesday afternoon when Gov. Ralph Northam announced Shenandoah County, along with Rockingham and Augusta counties, received nearly $26,000 from the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund.
Shenandoah County is leading the effort to combine the historically smaller, sub-regional Farm2Fork event that highlights the agricultural products the Shenandoah Valley has to offer.
French Price, economic development and tourism coordinator for Shenandoah County, has been spearheading the Farm2Fork affair effort. Price said while some of the funding is going to putting on the expo itself, a bulk of the funding is going to create a toolkit that will make training for producers more efficient and easy to set up in the future.
Price said she has been collaborating with a number of counties in the area to put on one large event for the first time.
“Because of their support, we’ve been able to subsidize the cost for producers,” Price said. “But we’re asking producers to come to these workshops so they know what to expect.”
While high-quality produce and animal products are key to a successful event, many of the producers are not familiar with marketing strategies, or how to interact with customers, Price said. The workshops go over basics relating to the expo itself — how to create an eye-catching display — as well as how to build relationships with potential future buyers.
The workshops are a one-stop-shop for producers, Price said.
“Everything you would need to do before the event to have your ducks in a row,” she said, “how to do the event, and how to follow up afterward.”
These workshops have been required in the past, Price said, but dealing with different levels of producers made the requirement difficult to enforce. Some veteran producers were already familiar with trade shows and relationship building, Price said, while others needed more help.
In preparation for the March 5, event, Price said there have been two workshops and plenty more information being sent out to make sure everyone is prepared.
There will also be a farm to fork dinner the organizers are preparing sometime in the next year, Price said.
The Shenandoah Valley Farm2Fork Affair will be at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 5. Attendance is free for buyers and $15 for producers from qualifying localities.