Floyd County is a rural mountain community in the Blue Ridge highlands of Virginia. Located on a high plateau, on the eastern edge of the Continental Divide, it comprises 360 square miles of forests and farmlands. The County is a sensitive ecological area, with a topography, elevation and watershed that are scenic and relatively unspoiled. The mountains are gently rolling with an elevation ranging from 2,300 to 4,000 feet on Buffalo Mountain. Agriculture is the primary economic activity.
Nearly 40 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway run through Floyd County, anchoring an emerging tourism economy. Floyd is home to a large number of artisans, writers and musicians and is one of the important communities along The Crooked Road, Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail and ‘Round the Mountain, Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Trail. The Town of Floyd is home to the nationally known Floyd Country Store, which draws 25,000 visitors a year to hear local old-time and bluegrass mountain music. The County is also the venue for FloydFest, a well known annual world music festival.
The Town of Floyd has 450 residents and the County’s only traffic light. Because of the topography, Floyd County was bypassed by traditional infrastructure and has no four-lane highways or railroads for its 15,000 residents. Floyd County is a study in contrasts, with both a county-wide high-speed fiber optic network, and more miles of gravel road than any county in Virginia. In the early 1970’s the County was the subject of a magazine article which spoke about the treasures of back-to-the-land living. Whether this was a tipping point or not is unclear but for the last 35 years Floyd County has become a preferred destination for people seeking a quiet, natural, creative lifestyle close to the land.
During the 1980’s and 90’s newcomers made their living primarily off the land or from cottage industries, but beginning in the late 1990’s newcomers joined with the local business community for development of the Town of Floyd. Over the last 10 years the town has seen a major re-development of its business district. Today it has a pedestrian village feel made up of an eclectic group of restored buildings that house a vibrant local economy.
With the loss of the traditional industries, textiles and forest products, the County has had to rely on local entrepreneurship. And Floyd is becoming well known for its leadership in development of the creative economy, a focus on its natural and intellectual assets to develop a more secure and diverse economy. This includes arts, craft, music and the County’s scenic and outdoor assets, as well as its knowledge base, ingenuity and commitment to stewardship. It also includes a renewed emphasis on agriculture.
After many years of losing farms and farmland, Floyd County is now seeing a resurgence of vegetable farming, farm to table livestock production as well as dairy and other value added products. Many of these are organic products and the County is well known for its local food movement. In some ways this is a return to the self-reliant and independent spirit of the past. Each year tens of thousands of people visit Mabry Mill, a historic watermill which a hundred years ago processed local corn and buckwheat for county residents, all with renewable energy. Today, using many of these same ideals, Floyd seeks to provide a model for the next hundred years.
Recently, Floyd has become known as one of Virginia’s forward looking rural communities. From partnerships formed between local government, non-profits and the private sector, Floyd County begins to address the issues of economic and cultural sustainability. This includes protecting the County’s natural resources, and focusing on issues of energy conservation, waste, food and agriculture, transportation and other important issues. The SustainFloyd organization is at the forefront of this movement and seeks to provide leadership for this and future generations.