Celebrating Virginia’s finest

Published 8:39 am Wednesday, September 2, 2009

September marks the 20th anniversary of the Virginia’s Finest program, a designation many local products carry.

Launched in 1989 by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the quality-based recognition program has helped identify and promote top quality Virginia-produced and processed agricultural products for two decades. Potential participants must undergo review by a committee of their peers and VDACS personnel to earn the right to be called Virginia’s Finest.

Feridies/The Peanut Patch of Courtland has been a Virginia’s Finest designee since the beginning.

“We are proud to be designated as a Virginia’s Finest product,” said Jane Riddick-Fries, owner. “Virginia is fortunate to have a wide variety of quality producers of the finest gourmet foods. The Peanut Patch gift shop features an entire section of Virginia’s Finest foods and wines.”

Liz and Herbert Britt of Simply Divine Catering are two of the newest Virginia’s Finest designees, and they say they can already see the effects of carrying the seal.

Liz is Nuts canned pecans are now sold in 23 stores throughout the state. The couple roasts 160 pounds of pecans a week and cans them for sale in their small business on Armory Drive.

“I couldn’t have done what I have done if not for Virginia’s Finest,” Liz Britt said. “They work so closely with you.”

Britt said she is proud that her cans of nuts carry the Virginia’s Finest symbol.

“It’s an honor to have that stamp,” she said.

Jane Gibson, who makes Jane’s Sweet Potato Biscuits out of her home in Franklin, also said the seal carries weight.

“It does enhance my sales,” she said. “People are looking for that designation.”

Sedley-based Hubbard Peanut Co. was one of 15 first Virginia’s Finest.

“We have proudly displayed (the symbol) ever since,” owner Lynne Rabil said.

Rabil said the designation helps consumers outside of Virginia know what products to buy.

“We are Virginia, and Virginia means quality,” she said.

Bob Felts, of R.M. Felts Packing Co. of Virginia, agreed.

“Our state as a whole carries a little bit of clout,” he said. “I think the Virginia’s Finest program is another way of putting a quality stamp on it — like giving it a blue ribbon.”