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Economic History of Virginia


Agriculture of Virginia
Agriculture of Virginia

Until the Civil War the economy of Virginia depended mainly on tobacco growing. After the war agriculture became more diversified, based increasingly on livestock and grain. During the 20th century, industries, especially the manufacture of chemicals, tobacco products, food products, and textiles, grew increasingly important. Coal mining became a major activity in the southwestern part of the state. World War II (1939-1945) and the postwar era saw a huge expansion in shipbuilding in the Hampton Roads area and in federal government activity in the Washington, D.C., area.

Virginia was long prominent as an agricultural state. The plantation was the earliest social unit, and tobacco became the chief crop early in the state’s history.

After 1800 agriculture became more diversified. Although tobacco continued to be the main crop, wheat, corn, and cotton grew in importance. Because Virginia was a battleground for much of the Civil War, the destruction to land, stock, and farm equipment was great, and Virginia never recovered its prominence in agriculture.

Livestock and livestock products are Virginia’s leading sources of farm income, led by poultry and cattle. Poultry farming, especially turkeys, is a major activity in the Shenandoah Valley, as are chickens on the Eastern Shore. The raising of beef cattle is especially important in the northern Piedmont. Dairy farms are found throughout the state. Virginia’s farms also raise a significant number of hogs. Smithfield ham, originally made from hogs fed a special diet of peanuts, is produced in the town of Smithfield.

Horses also are an important source of revenue. The Triple Crown–winning racehorse Secretariat was born in Virginia.

Virginia’s tobacco is grown principally in the southern and central Piedmont. Virginia produces two main types of cigarette tobacco, each grown in different regions of the state. Burley tobacco is grown primarily in southwest Virginia, and flue-cured is grown mainly in the central and southern Piedmont. Also grown mainly in the Piedmont is a small amount of specialty tobacco, such as fire-cured and sun-cured, used for chewing tobacco and snuff. Today, nursery and greenhouse products are a rapidly growing agricultural sector and have surpassed tobacco as the leading crop in terms of income brought to Virginia’s farmers.

Other major crops are corn, cotton, hay, and soybeans. Virginia ranks among the leading producers of tomatoes and apples in the United States. Apples and peaches, another important fruit crop, predominate in the northern Shenandoah Valley and adjacent Blue Ridge province. Tomatoes are grown primarily on the Eastern Shore, along with a variety of vegetables. "Virginia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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