Early plans revealed for Windsor agritourism business

Published 12:32 pm Wednesday, February 14, 2024

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The vacant and undeveloped property on the south and north sides of Windsor Boulevard near the U.S. 258/U.S. 460 intersection has officially changed hands after Virginia Gold Orchard Holdings closed on it in late 2023. Work has already begun to establish an agritourism business there, offering customers the opportunity to pick flowers, taste wine and purchase fruit and other food products.

The property sold includes 19 parcels — 54B-04-1 through 54B-04-19 — on the south side of Windsor Boulevard — a 5.144-acre stretch.

“The property essentially goes right up to the Dairy Queen property,” said Windsor Town Councilman Jake Redd, who is also a member of the Windsor Economic Development Authority, the now-former owner of the property.

Also included with the property sold are three parcels on the north side of Windsor Boulevard — 54B-04-21 through 54B-04-23. This is a 2.845-acre piece of land, and it is where Virginia Gold Orchard Holdings is expected to be operating initially.

Redd noted that Virginia Gold Orchard Holdings does business as two different limited liability companies — Virginia Gold Orchard, out of Lexington, and Ramulose Ridge Vineyards, out of Moneta.

Thomas Vandiver, who is owner and operator of both LLCs, said they are both coming to Windsor to establish a new site.

He shared some key details on the two companies.

“One of them is a tree fruit farm, and flowers, actually, are a big part of what we do at Virginia Gold,” he said. “So we specialize in Asian pears, but we also do a pretty impressive cut flower business, and so that will be coming there as kind of stage one, and that’ll be our farm shop where we’ll sell all of the fruit that we currently grow up here in the mountains.”

He noted that Virginia Gold’s orchard in the Lexington area has been there for decades and produces what he described as incredible fruit.

He said there are all sorts of food products the company makes from its Asian pears, and it will be bringing these products down to Windsor.

“But then basically from day one, we’re going to start growing flowers down there as well,” he said. “The trees, they take six or seven years to start producing, so there won’t be necessarily Windsor-grown fruit for the first several years … But we will start with our you-pick flower operation.”

He said that Virginia Gold Orchard’s flower operation in Windsor will essentially be a mirror image of the one it has established in Lexington — “so beautiful rows where people can walk and pick flowers, and basically, we’ll run it through the entire warm season.”

Vandiver indicated that the 2.845-acre piece of land on the north side of Windsor Boulevard is where both Virginia Gold Orchard and Ramulose Ridge Vineyards will begin their operations in Windsor.

“As we expand the business, we’ll begin utilizing the other side, because you don’t want a business split between two sides of the road, and so that’s where we would end up using the other side more for a little bit of a different concept that we’re working on at the moment,” he said.

Explaining how Ramulose Ridge Vineyards would be represented in Windsor to start with, he said the goal will be to open a tasting room where people can enjoy the wines that the company produces at its vineyard.

Vandiver said the initial idea for the business he envisions in Windsor is a space where people can come and “be able to go through the farm shop and buy amazing, fresh, local products, and we, of course, would start carrying products from closer down Windsor way as well, not just the stuff we grow up here at our farm. … (People in Windsor will) be able to go do the you-pick flower thing, which is just a lot of fun and then be able to enjoy some wine, if that’s something they’re interested in doing.”

He reiterated that his business will be growing fruit at the Windsor location eventually.

“It’s more a matter of picking the right varieties, and we have to do quite a bit of soil work before we can do that,” he said. “That soil’s really not ready to receive what you would consider a permanent crop, and that’s trees and vines. So that’s why we’re going to open with the flowers and with the tasting room and with the shop, and then we will start straightaway on planting those trees and vines down there. Like I said, it could be five to seven years before they’re producing anything. 

“So in the meantime, people will be able to enjoy products that are coming from our farms up here, and then of course, as soon as we’re able to produce a product off of that land (in Windsor), that will get incorporated into the mix.”

Vandiver shared what drew him to Windsor for this overall business venture.

“I drive 460 a lot, and I’ve always thought that Windsor was such a nice little town but that it didn’t have the sort of things that other towns have and that (this business) just was a great opportunity for people who live in Windsor to have a nice asset, to have a craft alcohol place, whether it was a craft brewery, the microdistilleries, in our case, a farm winery,” he said. “I thought the town would enjoy having one and that as far as the flowers and the fruit side of the business, I think that Windsor has a history of agriculture.”

He said his business is “an excellent opportunity to give the town something and then also be able to connect with all the people who pass through and hopefully give them a reason to stop. … This might give them a reason to stop and spend some more time and spend some more money in the (town).”

He indicated that when the Windsor operation will open to the public is unclear, citing the growing season as a factor. He said it could be as early as this summer, but he favored spring 2025.

“We started work on it straightaway, and we’ll be doing work all through the spring and summer, but I don’t know that it’s going to be ready for the public to come until next year in the spring — I think that would be a far more reasonable goal,” he said. “But it’s possible we could be open by fall. You never know, it just depends.”

He estimated that initially the business should bring about five new jobs to the town, but it could eventually bring quite a few more.

Speaking on behalf of the EDA and the town, Redd conveyed what it meant to have officially sold the aforementioned parcels to Virginia Gold Orchard Holdings and to see Vandiver beginning to develop it.

“I think it’s fantastic and hopefully going to be a great thing for the town,” he said. “The property has just been vacant land for many years now, and it’s been up for sale multiple times with no success, and at least the EDA is happy about the use (of the property), and we think — and I think — that the town residents will hopefully enjoy this type of business going there.”