Sep 30, 2021
Organic vegetable packhouse built for former tobacco growers
Southern Virginia Vegetable Packing, LLC partnered with Brunswick County Industrial Development Authority to construct a new, 45,000 square-foot, $4.2 million produce processing and packing facility.
Old Dominion Organic Farms, a member of Southern Virginia Vegetable Packing, will operate the facility. Over the next three years, 40 new jobs will be created and the facility is expected to process nearly $24 million Virginia-grown vegetables, approximately 80% of which will be certified organic. The new facility will support more than 22 farmers located in Amelia, Brunswick, Dinwiddie, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Prince George, and Surry Counties during its first season.
“As the Commonwealth’s largest and oldest industry, agriculture is an integral part of Virginia’s economic wellbeing – especially in rural areas,” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said in a news release. “I commend the members of Southern Virginia Vegetable Packing and all of the public and private sector partners who have made this project a reality. They have set an example for how we can all work together to support Virginia agriculture and the communities that rely on this important industry.”
Since 2001, the price and volume of tobacco sales in Virginia have decreased by nearly half, forcing many Southern Virginia farmers to find new markets or close down their operations. By contrast, the market for organic produce has boomed over that same period, with annual growth frequently exceeding 10%. Southern Virginia Vegetable Packing is taking advantage of this market opportunity by leveraging its existing land and labor assets, investing in organic certification, and partnering with farmers across the region to provide wholesalers with a stable and abundant supply of organic and conventional produce.
Over the next five years, Southern Virginia Vegetable Packing expects to make more than $60 million in produce sales, with $42 million being returned directly to individual farmers. A non-profit has been created to assist prospective farmers with growing these crops and obtaining organic certification, so they too can participate in this market.
“Embracing innovation and exploring new opportunities in agriculture is key to the growth and prosperity of rural communities,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “I am pleased that Brunswick County’s first Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development award is being used to partner with Southern Virginia Vegetable Packing to create new markets and support local farmers and producers with creative ways to maintain and grow their farming operations.”
“Access to a facility that provides efficient packing, cooling, and distribution of vegetables for local farmers will create access to markets previously unavailable to them,” said Jordan Brandon of Old Dominion Organic Farms (pictured above). “This was the key component farmers were lacking to capitalize on the land, equipment, labor, and farming experience they already possess.”
The Brunswick County Industrial Development Authority and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services worked closely with Brunswick and the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission to secure the project for the Commonwealth.
The architectural and engineering work needed to move the project forward was supported through a $35,000 Planning Grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund awarded in June to Brunswick and Lunenburg Counties. To assist the county in securing this project for Virginia, Governor Northam awarded Brunswick’s Industrial Development Authority a $400,000 Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Facility Grant, the county’s first-ever Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development award.
The project is also supported by a $500,000 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission.
“The Brunswick County Board of Supervisors is excited to see this project come to fruition as it capitalizes on our existing agricultural community, aligns with our Board Vision 2035 to create new business opportunities, and will result in more job creation for our citizens,” said Brunswick County Board of Supervisors Chair Dr. Barbara Jarratt Harris. “We look forward to a continued partnership with the Brunswick County Industrial Development Authority, the Brunswick County Agriculture Task Force, and other stakeholders to redefine our niche and help our agriculture industry thrive in new markets.”
“Three years ago, the Industrial Development Authority convened an Agricultural Task Force comprised of state and local leaders in agriculture, education, business, and economic development to leverage our farming heritage to create a new vision for development in the county,” said Industrial Development Authority of Brunswick Chair Gloria Meneweather-Woods. “This project is an outgrowth of that vision, and I sincerely thank the task force for their leadership. While there is still much to do, we know collaborative efforts like this offer us a pathway to continued success.”
“I am delighted that this project will draw on the farming expertise and experience of local folks in this effort to supply fresh, wholesome food to Virginians,” said Sen. Frank Ruff.
“Supporting our local farmers and producers is every bit as important now as it has always been for our region,” said Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission member Delegate Roslyn C. Tyler. “This facility will enable local farms to reach new customers and pursue new wholesale opportunities that will increase profitability and help ensure that these farms remain operational for generations to come. This is a big win for agriculture in our region and I’m pleased the Commission chose to support this important project. I look forward to seeing construction get underway on this new facility as soon as possible.”
The Northam administration has funded an historic number of projects through the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development fund. As of today, 109 businesses have received Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development grants, investing nearly $10 million in businesses all over the Commonwealth, helping them create more than $1 billion in new investment, nearly 3,500 jobs, and over $1 billion in commitments to purchase Virginia-grown products.