The 2020 Virginia Ag Expo, an event that was expected to attract hundreds of farmers from across the state has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Billed as the largest agricultural field day in Virginia, the expo moves each year to a host farm and showcases agriculture in the local area and technology advances in the farming industry. The 2020 expo was scheduled to be held Aug. 6 at the Downing family’s Bleak House Farm in Lottsburg on Virginia’s Northern Neck.
The July 16 cancelation announcement came after much discussion by the Ag Expo Committee, first year expo manager Jeff Whitaker said, and after Gov. Ralph Northam discussed stricter enforcement of restriction in in the Tidewater region due to a large increase in coronavirus cases.
During a press conference on July 14, Northam said he also was considering reducing the allowable size of gatherings, which is currently 250 under Phase Three of Virginia’s reopening plan.
Given the current situation and guidelines for food vendors and the expo operations, Whitaker said it would have been “next to impossible” to have the event and adequately protect attendees and volunteers.
“The safety of exhibitors and guests is the most important thing, which is why we believe this was the best decision for everyone,” Lesley Moseley, executive director of the Virginia Grain Producers Association, one of the expo’s organizing groups. “Exhibitors and sponsors who have already signed up will be contacted to discuss the necessary steps.”
The event had already been greatly modified to adjust to safety and health guidelines. On June 26, the committee notified exhibitors the large tent they would normally be stationed would be removed to allow for better social distancing. Individual exhibitor tents were to be used with expanded space, the notice said.
Another tent for lunch was to be replaced with smaller covered cooling stations to offer relief from the heat and the committee was planning got provide hand sanitizing stations throughout the event as well.
Bleak House Farm is a 2,500-acre operation managed by the family’s fourth generation, Michael and Mark Downing, raising corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, and sweet corn. The farm was also host of the 2014 expo.
Now with the event canceled for 2020, Whitaker said his and the committee’s attention turns to securing a host farm and planning for 2021.
“The goal right now is, yes, we are going to have it,” he said.