James City County recognizes our agricultural and timbering assets, and believes there is tremendous opportunity to support and grow agriculture- and forestry-based businesses, thereby increasing the agricultural sector of our local economy. We believe there may also be opportunities to grow our existing tourism base by creating agri-tourism destinations.
Several local initiatives supporting agriculture have surfaced, indicating general local support for the larger concept of enhancing agricultural assets. However, no strategy has been developed to tie the various segments together into a unified, comprehensive strategic plan for rural economic development. Without that critical component, myriad ideas are generated without guidance for allocating resources and building foundations for future successes.
Growing our economy and preserving our productive farmland and timberland are not mutually exclusive goals. By developing a strategic plan for rural economic development in the County, we can maximize our assets by working cooperatively toward specific identified goals.
Components of the desired strategy include:
• Inventory of rural economic development assets.
• Discussion and/or analysis of the financial contribution that agriculture plays in JCC’s economy. This could serve as a pre-plan baseline to measure results of plan implementation and also serve to show the potential impact that growing this sector could have on the County’s tax base.
• Inventory of efforts currently underway and parties involved.
• Assessment of current barriers to rural economic development, strategies for how they can be overcome and ways to better facilitate ag and forestry uses outside the PSA. This could include an examination of the County’s ordinances, building codes etc.
• Goal or vision statement for rural economic development.
• Assessment of opportunities for the County and private landowners to expand support for agriculture and timbering (including but not limited to agri-tourism, food processing and packaging facilities, marketing local foods, connecting producers with users, kitchen incubators, cold storage areas, etc.).
• Development of a long-term rural economic development strategy with the resulting strategies and/or implementation suggestions prioritized.
• Suggestions for identifying sources of funding for implementing recommendations within the strategic plan.