Loudoun County’s agriculture economy includes 1,400 farms and rural businesses, including breweries, wineries and niche farms that offer everything from beef, lamb and poultry to flowers, herbs and even alpaca products, and has an economic impact that exceeds $800 million, according to the Loudoun County Department of Economic Development.
To ensure that the county has experienced leaders to herald our valuable agricultural economy into the future, a group of farmers and rural development leaders has launched the New Ag School (NAS), which received a 2017 grant from 100WomenStrong.
NAS is a hands-on program dedicated to teaching leaders who understand, appreciate and can do the work needed to support agribusiness today and into the future in Loudoun County. NAS provides exposure to authentic farm industry, as well as an introduction of what it takes to run a business – whether a winery, bed and breakfast, or farm. Working side-by-side with a mentor, mentees learn a greater appreciation for all that farmers and rural business owners accomplish for themselves, their businesses and the larger community.
“There is a need for a better-educated pool of workers to support Loudoun’s rural small businesses and that education needs to encompass a variety of specializations,” according to Doug Fabbioli, NAS board member and owner of Fabbioli Cellars. “The grant from 100WomenStrong will fund the development of educational materials that are unique to Loudoun, where farmers not only grow the crop, but in our direct-to-consumer environment, also must create and serve the fruit of their labor.
“We aim to train up a workforce of all ages and talents who understand our various growing, harvest and tourism seasons and are specifically trained to support agribusiness, from horticulture to management to sales,” he continued. “We can do that now thanks to the support of 100WomenStrong and many others who understand that education doesn’t always take place behind a desk.”