Top 20 Agricultural Commodities Of Virginia

By Geoffrey Migiro on January 28 2020 in Economics

Fruit and vegetables at the Manassas Farmers Market, Manassas, Virginia, USA.
Fruit and vegetables at the Manassas Farmers Market, Manassas, Virginia, USA.

Virginia is an American state that is situated in the Mid-Atlantic and Southern parts of the country right between the Appalachian and the Atlantic Coast. It is the thirty-fifth largest American state and the twelfth most-populous state with a population of about 8 million. Virginia was the first permanent British colony in the United States that was established by the London Company in 1607. Newport Christopher established Jamestown, the first permanent British settlement in the region in 1607. Virginia was already an agricultural area long before the colonialists arrived.

History Of Agriculture In Virginia

The settlers in Jamestown were already planting corn and wheat for their sustainability before they learned how to farm tobacco from the Native Americans, which became the region’s top exporting product. The Native Americans were cultivating Nicotiana rustica, which was dark and bitter to the British settlers. Therefore, Rolfe John introduced Nicotiana tabacum in the region in 1612. Rolfe planted the seeds on the shores of River James, and within a short time, he was producing dark-leafed tobacco, which became the European-standard. Tobacco farming spread to the Blue-Ridge Mountain area, and within less than 2 centuries, tobacco farming was dominating agriculture in the Chesapeake region. The General Assembly set up requirements for tobacco inspections in 1619 and mandated the creation of Richmond, Norfolk, and Alexandria.

Tobacco played a vital role in the early colonial economy in Virginia, and the settlers used it to buy slaves and indentured servants who worked in the tobacco plantations. Large tobacco planter exported their produce directly to England while the small-scale farmers worked with several agents who purchased the tobacco and shipped it together with all the manufactured goods. The price of tobacco was stable until the mid-seventeenth century when it started to fluctuate. The price of tobacco was affected by shipping disruption caused by several British wars and overproduction. The poor price of tobacco forced several planters to switch to other crops like wheat. After stabilizing the tobacco industry, the settlers moved onto vineyards. The weather and soil in Virginia were better than in England; therefore, the settlers started growing grapevines in their farms. The first batch of wine was bitter; however, the colonists did not give up, and by the end of the seventeenth century, they had introduced a wine industry in Virginia.

Switch From Tobacco Farming To Livestock And Grains

Tobacco continued being the region’s cash crop until the late-eighteenth century when planters started growing more grains and rearing livestock. Some of the grains like wheat ended up becoming the region’s cash crop, particularly because it was cheaper to grow them. Grain farms required few workers and didn’t affect the soil fertility like tobacco. Before the civil war began, vineyards, plantations, and farms were flourishing in Virginia. President Jefferson loved the wine from Virginia, and he was influential in making the sector flourish during his tenure. However, several vineyards were wiped out by the Civil War since most battles were fought in this region. The wine sector did not take off until the mid-1970s.

The Agricultural Industry Of Virginia

The early 1900s was the Golden Age of agriculture in the United States, and Virginia farms flourished during this period. However, when the Great Depression hit the country, Virginia was profoundly affected. The agricultural industry managed to bounce back during the Second World War. Currently, Virginia is home to over 43,225 farms, which occupy a total area of about 7.8million acres. Agriculture is still the most significant private sector in the state, which generates about $70billion every year. Forestry, together with agriculture, employed more than 334,000people in Virginia, and together they have an economic impact of about $91billion. In 2017, forestry and agriculture accounted for 9.5% of Virginia’s total GDP. Even though the number of farms has reduced since 1960, agriculture is still one of the leading industries in Virginia.

Top 20 Agricultural Commodities From Virginia

Top Livestock Products From Virginia

Chickens or broilers bred in this state are the top agricultural product in Virginia. Broilers accounted for $935million of the $70billion that this sector contributed to the state’s economy in 2018. According to the Virginia-Poultry-Federation, Virginia became the tenth highest producer of broilers in 2018 when they produced 278.9million broilers. The average weight of broilers from Virginia in 2017 was 5.8pounds while the country’s average was 6.2pounds. According to Virginia Tech, the topography and forage resources in Virginia are ideal for beef production. The second top agricultural produce from Virginia was calves and cattle, which generated 413million in 2018. There are over 675,000beef cows in 23,000farms in Virginia. Most beef farms are in the Mountain and Piedmont regions. Dairy products ranked fourth in the state, accounting for $306million in 2018. Other top livestock products include turkey ($236million), pigs ($44million), and eggs ($101million). Virginia was the sixth top producers of turkey in the country. All the other animals, like horses, accounted for $215million.

Top Crop Produce From Virginia

Greenhouses and nursery products are the top crops planted in Virginia, followed by Soybeans ($225million). The value of the nursery/greenhouses products in Virginia has increased from $271.9milllion in 2012 to $306million in 2018. Greenhouse/nursery products have risen in ranks from sixth in 2015 to third in 2018. One of the most recognizable crops produce in Virginia is corn, which accounted for the $175million of the $70billion that this sector contributed to the state’s economy. According to Virginia Tech, corn is grown in about 500,000acres in this state every year. Floriculture debuted in the top 10 list in 2018 when it contributed $146million to Virginia’s economy. Flower agro-tourism and floriculture is a growing trend in this state. Hay farming rounded up the top 10 list in 2018, grossing $118million. Even though tobacco farming has declined in Virginia, it is still a crucial part of the agricultural sector. Tobacco contributed $97million to Virginia’s economy in 2018. Other top crop products from Virginia include cotton lint ($64million), tomatoes ($22million), wheat ($43million), peanuts ($26million), apples ($37million), and potatoes ($19million). Pumpkins debuted in the top 20 list for the first time in 2018. The 2018 pumpkin harvest from 3,500acres brought in $10million.         

Top 20 Agricultural Commodities Of Virginia

RankCOMMODITYCASH RECEIPTS ($)
1Broilers93,50,00,000
2Cattle and Calves41,30,00,000
3Greenhouse/Nursery30,60,00,000
4Dairy Products, Milk30,60,00,000
5Turkeys23,60,00,000
6Soybeans22,50,00,000
7All Other Animals+21,50,00,000
8Corn17,50,00,000
9Floriculture14,60,00,000
10Hay11,80,00,000
11Eggs10,10,00,000
12Tobacco9,70,00,000
13Cotton Lint6,40,00,000
14Hogs4,40,00,000
15Wheat (Winter)4,30,00,000
16Apples3,70,00,000
17Peanuts2,60,00,000
18Tomatoes2,20,00,000
19Potatoes1,90,00,000
20Pumpkins1,00,00,000

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