Making the Connection: Enhancing Agricultural Understanding in an Urbanizing Area

Project Overview

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2002: $7,300.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2002
Region: Southern
State: Virginia
Principal Investigator:
Suzanne Heflin
Prince William County Farm Tour


  • Agronomic: potatoes, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Vegetables: beans, sweet corn, tomatoes
  • Additional Plants: native plants
  • Animals: bees, bovine, ratite


  • Animal Production: grazing - rotational, watering systems, feed/forage
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, marketing management, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: riparian buffers, riverbank protection, soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: biological control, cultural control, mulches - killed
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Sustainable Communities: urban/rural integration, community development


    Producing and distributing a 4th grade activity book in conjunction with the Prince William County Farm Tour proved to positively impact the educational efforts of the farm tour, but had little impact on event attendance. Refinements in book distribution and production of teacher materials will elevate awareness and utilization of the activity book in the future.


    Prince William County, Virginia is a rapidly growing county in Northern Virginia. Despite the development pressure, the County maintains a vital and vibrant rural farming economy. The western part of the county boasts several successful dairy farms, expansive sod, hay and grain acreage, innovative direct marketers of vegetables, bustling horse barns and a myriad of beef cattle operations. Unique alternative agricultural enterprises such as alpacas, emus, petting zoos and agri-tourism flourish.

    The continued viability of farming and agriculture is threatened by the rapid loss of farmland, increased farm/non-farm conflict in rural areas and negative impacts of un-farm-friendly county policies. Recognizing these challenges and the opportunity for a community building effort a group of farmers and citizens initiated a public tour of farms in Prince William County.

    The first annual Western Prince William County Farm Tour was held September 22 and 23, 2001 with the following goals: 1) Celebrate and recognize agriculture's contributions to the County’s economy, environment and quality of life, 2) Heighten awareness of traditional and alternative agricultural resources in the County and 3) Allow citizens to spend a day in the country and experience agribusiness in a hands-on environment.

    The tour was a tremendous success with approximately 3000 children and adults attending. Participant feedback was extremely positive, especially regarding one-on-one conversations with the farmers themselves. Farm tour organizers continue to seek enhancements to reach the established goals of this successful agricultural outreach campaign in Prince William County.

    Project objectives:

    Goals for the 2002 farm tour were to

    1) double participation in the farm tour emphasizing involvement of greater ethnic and social diversity and,

    2) further develop educational efforts of the farm tour.

    Farm tour organizers planned to support these goals with the following objectives:

    1) Promote participation in the farm tour through the County’s public and private schools. Work with Prince William County Schools Multicultural Education Specialists to embrace and serve the wider spectrum of the County’s citizens.

    2) Produce an activity book that will reinforce the farm tour themes and messages independent of participation in the farm tour.

    3) Evaluate the effectiveness of the farm tour and the activity book at meeting the goals and purposes of the farm tour.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.