New facility will help tobacco growers switch to organic products



RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – An initiative to help struggling tobacco growers transition to new areas of agriculture has just taken a big step forward in Brunswick County with the help of a state funding.

On Thursday, Governor Ralph Northam announced that Southern Virginia Vegetable Packing, LLC will build a new 45,000-square-foot, $ 4.2 million processing plant, creating 40 new jobs over three years. The stop kicks off a statewide economic development tour for Northam.

The investment comes as local farmers stand at a crossroads. Since 2001, the price and amount of tobacco sales in Virginia has been cut by almost half as the organic market booms.

“The last few years have been a huge decline and farmers needed something else to get started,” said Brunswick County farmer Richard Hite Jr., who is currently switching from tobacco to organic products. “It’s an avenue to allow my family farm to continue and stay in business. My children will be able to cultivate.

The new facility will support more than 22 farmers located in Amelia, Brunswick, Dinwiddie, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Prince George and Surry counties in its first season.

In the future, a non-profit organization is working to help more farmers participate in the market.

Old Dominion Organic Farms will operate the facility. Owner Jordan Brandon said he would provide more efficient packaging, cooling and distribution of vegetables and create access to markets previously inaccessible to local farmers.

“Having this facility will allow the little guys to be able to compete with everyone else without having to invest in a cooling and packaging facility that is otherwise prohibitive,” said Brandon.

The project was made possible by state funding, including the Governor’s Agricultural and Forestry Industries Development Fund.

Northam said 109 companies received the grants under his administration, a total investment of nearly $ 10 million that has helped create nearly 3,500 jobs. Northam said this was a historic number of projects using this fund.

“As the largest and oldest industry in the Commonwealth, agriculture is integral to the economic well-being of Virginia, especially in rural areas,” Northam said. “I congratulate the members of Southern Virginia Vegetable Packing and all the partners in the public and private sectors who made this project a reality. They set an example of how we can all work together to support Virginia agriculture and the communities that depend on this important industry. “


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