By Tony Howard
I often wonder: Is there any other community quite like Loudoun County?
While every community is unique, I would bet you a Loudoun-made craft beverage of your choice that our community’s rare blend of economic and quality of life attributes is truly one of a kind.
Think about how many globally unique assets that call Loudoun County home. Places like Dulles International Airport, Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus and the internet.
OK, not the entire internet. But 70 percent of the internet flows through the world’s largest and most important data center market here in Loudoun.
Yet, just minutes away, exists a remarkable rural way of life that is rooted in heritage, agriculture and artisan traditions that predate our nation’s founding.
There in western Loudoun, you will find world-class farms, wineries, equestrian facilities and B&Bs that are a match for their eastern neighbors’ global reach and reputation. These rural assets not only contribute to Loudoun’s singular quality of life, together they form their own economic powerhouse.
While Loudoun has long been known as Wine Country, probably because we have more wineries than any other Virginia county, we also have more acres of grapes, more hops grown, more honey collected and sold, and more alpacas and llamas than any other Virginia county.
In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we have more farmers who are women, Latino, Hispanic, Asian, and military veterans.
How did Loudoun, a D.C. suburb known for its data centers and airport, become the commonwealth’s agricultural leader?
Good soil, a good pro-business environment, and good planning.
“The Board of Supervisors have made it a priority to preserve our farmland and support those who are putting their land to great use,” said Loudoun Board Chair Phyllis Randall, when the USDA released a report with those findings.
That decision to preserve Loudoun’s farmland is something most Loudouners support.
“Through the process of gathering citizen input for Loudoun’s comprehensive plan, the overwhelming constant was the support to keep the west rural. Our citizens recognize that farmland and other rural uses are good for residents, visitors, and as a balancer for the more urban lifestyle,” said Doug Fabbioli, of Fabbioli Cellars and past Chair of Loudoun’s Rural Economic Development Council.
The great thing about Loudoun’s dual identity is that both sides not only coexist, they thrive on each other.
“Loudoun truly is one of the best places to live, work and play because our rural west and suburban east support and even sustain each other,” says Kate Zurschmeide of Great Country Farms, who also is a past Chair of the REDC.
Kate also says her customers appreciate how small farms like hers are practicing sustainable agriculture.
“Our customers tell us that they enjoy so many benefits from buying local, including knowing their food is produced safely and sustainably. There is something truly priceless about actually knowing your farmer and knowing how your food is grown,” Kate added.
If you are interested in learning more about how to access some of Loudoun’s world-class, locally produced farm products, there three great upcoming events.
The first is the 10th Annual Loudoun Grown Expo on Saturday, Feb. 29 at the Bush Tabernacle in Purcellville, where you will find up to 40 Loudoun’s finest growers, producers, artisans & makers, breweries and wineries—all under one roof.
Then don’t miss the Take Loudoun Home expo on March 14 at the Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum in Sterling, where you will meet many of Loudoun’s Community Supported Agriculture programs and wine clubs. CSAs are the perfect way to support agriculture in Loudoun, while getting the very freshest items for your family.
For information on both, visit loudounfarms.org.
Finally, join the Loudoun Chamber on April 1, from 8-10 a.m. at the Belmont Country Club, for a conversation with local farmers, farm market operators and rural economic development experts, focused on the economic and health benefits of buying and eating local foods and drinking local beverages. For more information on this event, visit loudounchamber.org.
Also, always look for the “Loudoun, Made • Loudoun, Grown” logo when you buy. That’s how you know it has local roots and world class quality.
Tony Howard is President and CEO of the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce.