A farmland protection group says the state's economy and landscape could be hit hard if steps aren't taken to preserve Virginia's farmland and get more people interested in farming.
According to a recent study by the American Farmland Trust, Virginia lost 105,000 acres of its highest quality farmland between 1992 and 1997.
Scott Baker, agricultural extension agent in Bedford County, says the trend is referred to as the "graying of agriculture." As the average age of farmers creeps over 50, more are finding themselves without heirs interested in continuing the family tradition.
Mary Heinricht, Mid-Atlantic regional director for American Farmland Trust, says vital farming areas like the Shenandoah Valley are struggling with drought, disease and depressed local economies. That makes them vulnerable to the demand for land, particularly along the I-81 corridor.