Agriculture has been a cornerstone of Loudoun County, Virginia since its inception. From the late 1930s to the mid-1980s, aerial photographs show that field patterns have remained remarkably consistent, with only a few changes in an area covering thousands of acres. Even though the proportion of crops planted may have shifted over time, the distribution of crops within established fields has likely stayed the same due to the practice of annual crop rotation. Fences have been added or replaced, but native trees, shrubs, and vines are still allowed to sprout and grow along rows of fences that have not changed since the introduction of machinery into agriculture.
In 1982, Loudoun County's Agricultural Census reported 888 farms in the county, with 191,000 acres (57% of the county's land) dedicated to cultivation or related agricultural activities. Another 30 percent of the county's land was covered by forest. Quakers and most Germans in northern and central Loudoun opposed slavery and secession, while the landed gentry in the southern part of the county was in favor of secession. During the War of 1812, Loudoun County briefly served as a temporary refuge for the president and for important state newspapers. The introduction of major road improvements made it much easier to travel from Loudoun County, drawing more and more people to the eastern part of the county.
In response to this influx, Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) Loudoun created programs and assistance for local residents to help increase sustainability of agricultural operations and improve soil health. To this end, VCE Loudoun developed a tool that combines soil types, appearance (orientation of the slope) and percentage of slope to determine the best and least suitable sites for cultivation in Loudoun County. It is gratifying to see these efforts paying off, with another positive report on the agricultural economy in the county. As Loudoun County Board of Supervisors President Phyllis Randall said: “It's gratifying to see those efforts paying off, with another positive report on the agricultural economy in the county”. As part of King Charles II's 1649 grant of 5 million-acre Northern Neck estate to seven nobles, Loudoun County continues to be an integral part of Virginia's agricultural landscape. The sustainability initiatives implemented by VCE Loudoun are helping farmers in Loudoun County maintain their operations while also protecting natural resources.
These initiatives include providing farmers with access to soil health testing services, offering educational programs on sustainable farming practices, and providing financial assistance for conservation projects such as cover cropping and no-till farming. Additionally, VCE Loudoun is working with local governments to create zoning ordinances that protect farmland from development. The efforts put forth by VCE Loudoun are helping farmers in Loudoun County maintain their operations while also protecting natural resources. These initiatives are helping ensure that agriculture remains an important part of Loudoun County's history and culture for generations to come.