Sperryville’s history has always been intriguing, with farming, retail business and creativity at its core. In the six and a half years that I have been writing this column we have witnessed another renaissance in the village. We have welcomed new restaurants, farm stores, gift and garden shops, antique stores, home-based non-storefront businesses (many of them web-based), a yoga studio, several art galleries and studios, vacation rental homes and inns, a bakery, furniture stores and even a now-famous distillery. The question is: What is needed for all of these businesses to not only survive, but thrive?
Two weeks ago the editor of this paper summarized the creation of the county tourism infrastructure under the leadership of Laura Overstreet, our retiring part-time tourism consultant. These include development of a website (visitrappahannockva.com), the opening of a public/private membership-based Visitors Center, publication and distribution of a comprehensive visitors guide, initiation of an advertising campaign that includes paid ads, a Facebook page and, of course, the budget item to pay a part-time tourism consultant.
Tourism is one of the basic components of the Rappahannock County Comprehensive Plan. The goal of tourism is to bring tax revenue into the county and to improve the quality of life. In addition to direct tax revenue, tourism provides jobs for carpenters, electricians, plumbers, gardeners, web designers, chefs, house cleaners, pet sitters and more.
What is needed to build on the progress that has been made to continue and increase the tax revenue flowing into the county budget? Here are some thoughts:
Develop new revenue sources to pay for a full-time tourism director (there is no business license or tax in Rappahannock County). Some have suggested an admissions tax as one option.
Hire a professional who is well-connected to the travel writer industry (Laura generated literally thousands of dollars of free advertising for Rappahannock County by inviting and hosting travel writers of major magazines such as Southern Living).
Hire a professional with the knowledge and skills to utilize the social media which many of our visitors from metropolitan areas use exclusively.
Hire a tourism professional with the experience in supporting the county website and visitor center.
Every business in Sperryville has its own marketing budget. However, to continue to develop Sperryville, and the entire county, as a destination requires a comprehensive and coordinated plan. As we move forward into 2013 our board of supervisors will make decisions about the future funding and staffing for tourism development. Members of the Shop Sperryville group and the RHVA have expressed interest in presenting an organized position to the board and plan to organize soon. We hope the citizens of Sperryville will make their voices heard to the supervisors.
“Tender, organic and delicious!” Those are the words my grandsons Joe (14) and Skyler (11) used to describe the pastured pork they were eating from the 22 pigs that my son, Kevin, raises annually in La Conner, Wash. Kevin often returns home to find the boys making three pounds of hot sausage with peppers and onions or pork chops with a red wine and balsamic demi-glaze. Kevin and his wife do attempt to hide the packages of meat with large bags of frozen vegetables, which the boys find much less interesting. Forget the peanut butter and jelly when the freezer is full of dad’s pastured pork.
When I arrived for a visit last week my son had prepared “porchetta,” a pork roast covered with a paste of coriander, black pepper, crushed red pepper, fennel, garlic, salt and olive oil. Without adult supervision these two active boys would have eaten the entire roast. My eight-year old grandson in Maryland, Anthony, always devours our Mount Vernon Farm strip steak marinated in extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
My point is that well-prepared quality meat, sustainably raised and served to children teaches them good nutrition just because it is so tasty and can naturally overcome at least some food battles. Just be prepared to hide the meat when they learn to cook. In Sperryville, we have two sources of grass-fed meat and pastured pork: Cliff Miller’s Mount Vernon Farm offers lamb, beef, pork, lard, eggs and chicken; call 540-987-9559 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more. Meanwhile, John Kiser’s Meadowgreen Farm specializes in pork, and can be reached at 540-987-8445 or meadowgreenfarm.net.