In December of 2004, at the annual Republican Advance held in western Virginia, candidate Bob McDonnell was running for the Party's nomination for Attorney General. Keeping with tradition, he was set to host a hospitality suite that would see hundreds pass through during the two-day event.

The theme of the hospitality suite was to showcase Virginia-made products from throughout the Commonwealth including Staunton-made Curry's Kitch'n Cook'd potato chips carried to the event fresh from the factory.

Last week Governor Bob McDonnell proved he was still interested in spotlighting Virginia-made products with the promotion of the "Choose the Commonwealth!" campaign that encouraged Virginia businesses and trade groups to "incorporate Virginia food and beverage products in day-to-day business operations."

The Governor is prepared to lead by example with plans to feature Virginia products at all executive mansion dinners and events. In a press release, Gov. McDonnell addressed the initiative:

“Virginia is known far and wide for our high quality food and beverage products, and Virginia’s top-tier wines are gaining well-deserved recognition from wine connoisseurs around the globe. "Plus, the 'Virginia Finest' and 'Virginia Grown' programs help consumers and retailers know that when they’re buying Virginia agricultural products with those labels, they’re buying the very best the Commonwealth has to offer. ... I am constantly incorporating Virginia’s best known products, including ham, seafood, peanuts, and wine."

Agriculture is Virginia’s top industry, contributing $55 billion and more than 350,000 jobs to the economy each year.

Many businesses in historic downtown Staunton, located in the central Shenandoah Valley, use products from throughout the Commonwealth. Restaurants such as The Depot Grille, Staunton Grocery, Zinandoah, Mockingbird, and Cranberries purchase meats and poultry products from nearby Polyface Farm, wines from area vineyards, and bottled water from Shenandoah Water Company as well as other local products.

Virginia Accents on Beverley Street features high quality Heart Scents candles crafted by an Augusta County family. Coffee on the Corner, which can be found near the Blackfriars Theater, uses locally-processed coffee.

Berry's Natural Way, a vitamin supplement store on Beverley Street, makes it a point to support local businesses such as Seawright Springs water from neighboring Augusta County, Mennonite homemade bread, honey from nearby Sanger's Glen, Bees Works lip balm from Chantilly, and Virginia Soaps and Scents from a Suffolk home school family.

Staunton native and Berry's Natural Way manager Alex Davis said the store owners actively work to support local producers, and people from the community go to them looking for those products. Tourists, who make up a big part of business especially during the summer, specifically shop for local products.

Staunton's weekly farmers market, held downtown on Saturday mornings, offers some of Virginia's finest in fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, plants, flowers, baked goods, herbs, and other offerings from area farmers.

The "Choose the Commonwealth!" campaign and the Governor encouraged businesses to contact the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, Todd Haymore, and notify him of commitments made to buy Virginia grown and produced food and beverage products.