Agriculture and forestry are major components of the economic base in Essex County. The Essex Economic Development Authority in cooperation with the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund Advisory Board and a private contractor recently completed an Agriculture and Forestry Strategic Plan. Following are some of the findings from the strategic plan.

Geographically, seventy-five percent of the land base in Essex County is in agriculture and forestry production. 86,940 acres are devoted to the production of pine and hardwood trees, while 38,720 acres of land is in corn, wheat, barley, and soybeans with minimal acreage in other crops. From an acreage standpoint, soybean is the largest crop in the county with annual production of over 20,000 acres. The small-grain, soybean double crop has been an important cropping system in the county for several decades. This system allows two crops (wheat or barley and soybeans) to be harvested in one year so harvested cropland per year is almost 57,000 acres.

According to the 2012 USDA Census, there are 98 farms in the county. The size of the farms is diverse with about one-third of the farms having 50 or fewer acres and one-quarter having 500 acres or more.

One the main goals of the Essex unit of Virginia Cooperative Extension is to provide support to this important industry through educational programs.  Keith Balderson, ANR Extension Agent housed in the Essex Unit and David Moore, Senior ANR Extension Agent housed in the Middlesex Unit, work together to design educational programs to assist producers and agri-businesses in Essex and surrounding counties.

Services Offered:

  • Business Planning, Marketing Planning
  • Transition and Estate Planning Preparation
  • Pesticide Safety Training
  • Soil Testing & Fertilization Recommendations
  • On-Farm Visits
  • Forage Testing
  • Insect Identification
  • Plant Disease and Plant Identification
  • Crop Diagnostic Troubleshooting
  • On-Farm Research Test Plots
  • On-Farm Field Consultations
  • Aquaculture and Pond Management
  • Pasture Management

How information is distributed:

  • Crop Conferences and other Meetings
  • Field Days and Tours
  • Private Pesticide Applicator Permit Testing and Re-certification
  • Agriculture Pesticide Disposal Program
  • Newsletters
  • Newspaper articles
  • Telephone Calls
  • Emails

Essex County 4-H has three active groups that promote youth development for youth ages 9-18. The clubs are the Essex 4-H Livestock Club (ages 9-18) and two sewing groups that meet weekly at the extension office. The livestock club meets monthly at the extension office from October through April, and club members have the opportunity to learn about animal husbandry, good sportsmanship, and small business management. Club members have the opportunity to raise project animals and show and sell them at the Fredericksburg Area Jr. Livestock Show and Sale in May. For more information about the livestock club, please contact Keith Balderson at 804-443-3551 or The sewing groups meet Tuesday and Thursday throughout the year. Space is limited in these groups, and more information about the sewing groups, please contact Stephanie Stiles at 804 443-3551 or

Essex 4-H promotes a year-long camping program through specialty camps and summer camps. The largest camping event we hold is a week-long overnight camp held at Jamestown 4-H Educational Center. We take registrations for this camp beginning March 1st and our quota is 45 youth ages 9-13. We also take teen leaders to this camp, and teens must apply for the position.

Essex 4-H also works with the Essex Public School System, VCE Family and Consumer Sciences program and several volunteers annually to host the Reality Store Financial Literacy program for eighth graders at Essex Intermediate School. We also work with kindergarten teachers and students with the embryology project. 

For more information on the 4-H program, please contact Stephanie Stiles at 804-443-3551 or

NOTE: The Gloucester County FCS agent covers Essex County. The information below links to the Gloucester County website.

Engaging with Communities

Virginia Cooperative Extension specialists in community viability work with Extension agents, campus-based faculty, organizational partners, communities, and individuals to further opportunity and build capacity in five program areas:   

Examples of our work include training county elected officials, educating entrepreneurs, facilitating collaborative projects, supporting the growth of community food systems and local economies, enhancing agent skills and community capacity in facilitation and leadership, conducting problem-driven research, and creating publications and tools that address critical community needs.

Do you have a question about Community Viability?

Perhaps one of the Community Viability specialists below can help you. Contact a Community Viability specialist or direct a question to them using our Ask an Expertsystem. 

Community Viability Specialists