Ned Jeter II, 14-month-old Sedley Jeter, Rose Jeter and Ned Jeter stand in a corn maze on the Jeter farm in Botetourt County. Botetourt, with 260,137 acres of farmland, ranks 53rd out of 95 Virginia counties for the value of agriculture sold.
by Beth Jones
ed Jeter II still sounds proud when he talks about the long-ago day his preschool class took a field trip to his family’s farm. “It was super cool,” Jeter says. “Especially when your dad is the driver of the hayride.” Today Jeter, 33, works full time on the family farm. Even as a kid, he knew he wanted to be a farmer when he grew up. “In one way, shape or form.” Once almost completely rural, Botetourt County’s landscape has experienced a radical transformation in recent years. In the Daleville section of U.S. 220, fast-food restaurants, upscale shops and doctors’ offices multiplied like dandelions where lush farms and orchards once stood. Nevertheless, Jeter has plenty of brethren in Botetourt singing the praises of agriculture. “Where there used to be 20 to 30 dairies in Botetourt, now there are five to 10, but those farmers are getting it done and looking forward to the future,” says Jeter. “Agriculture in Botetourt is extremely important,” says Jay Brenchick, who recently celebrated his first anniversary as the county’s economic development manager. Botetourt, with 260,137 acres of farmland, ranks 53rd out of 95 Virginia counties for the value of agriculture sold, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. According to that report, the average Botetourt farm is 152 acres. Yet Jeter says the county also boasts many smaller properties. In these cases, homeowners work day jobs and tend to gardens of, say, three acres in the evenings, selling the produce at weekend farmers markets. “That kind of thing is contributing to agriculture in the county, as well,” he says.