Isle of Wight County

Click on Image to View Slideshow


The downtown area of Smithfield has a number of unique shops. There is some high-quality local art, as well as schlock. The town bills itself as the most popular day trip for Williamsburg visitors.

The 208-acre Windsor Castle Park is just a few steps away from the main area of Smithfield. Photo by Col.

The park has around 3 miles of running trails as well as a dog park and a kayak/canoe launch.


You can rent kayaks on Saturdays for $10 per hour.

The park is on the Cyprus Creek. A few yards from the park, the creek flows into the Pagan River.

The Pagan River flows into the James River about 5 miles from Smithfield.

The park opened in May 2010. Joseph W. Luter III, the former CEO of Smithield Foods, donated $5 million to the town for the purchase and development of the park.

Soybeans grow near the park. Photo by Col.


In 2013, 5 acres of the land was leased to create a small winery within the park.

Smithfield Winery plans to produce 2,000 cases of wine a year from their harvest.

In June, the grapes were starting to form on the vine. Photo by Col.

Photo by Col.

Another Creek View

The water tower says "ham, history and hospitality." Photo by Col.

The pink-painted hub caps at Olden Days were a close call, but we didn't buy anything from the craft vendors. We did buy some cheese at the farmer's market.

The pink-painted hub caps were a close call, but we didn't buy anything from the craft vendors. We did buy some cheese at the farmer's market.

The Heather Edwards Band played a mish-mash of songs, although mostly country covers. The lead singer was good. Probably adding sax to every song wasn't the greatest of decisions.

Lots of antique cars filled the streets.


One of the Victorian era row houses along Main Street. They were built around 1900. Photo by Col.

The house was built about 1889 for Richard S. Thomas, a prominent Smithfield lawyer and historian. It is now a B&B. Photo by Col.

The Taste of Smithfield store and restaurant was very busy for Olden Days. We managed to get a table and went for the ham sandwich.

You will find a good number of pig art around town. And if you go into the museum, you can see the world's oldest ham.

We stopped at College Run Farms in Surry for Ice Cream and found these creatures hanging out in the eating area.

And Smith & Wesson gave my uncle a job.
And Sir Walter Raleigh gave my uncle a job.

– Eddie From Ohio – Loitering in the Lobby.

We went to Smithfield for its Olden Days celebration. We ran in a surprising nice park along the Cyprus Creek, looked at some crafts, antiques and old cars, bought a block of cheese, listened to country music, and had the all-important ham sandwich.

While the town celebrated its past, the future of the ham capital of the world remains unclear. Last fall Smithfield became the largest U.S. company ever bought by a Chinese firm. Shuanghui International Holding bought it for $4.7 billion.

It is too early to tell how the acquisition will impact the small town in the long-term. Two articles in the local paper had somewhat positive spins on the current situation, emphasizing that the new owners were taking a hands-off approach and keeping local management in place. But the editor was quoted last year as saying, “All you can do is keep your fingers crossed, hang tight and be positive about the whole thing.” Others have voiced concerns that the feel of the town will change and that much of the land in the area will be bought by foreign interests.

Why did Shuanghui buy the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer? Not only so it could export a good chunk of the ham, but also so it could learn the details of factory farming, including how to churn out an untainted product. Chinese meat producers have major problems with sanitation. And, as the country’s middle class has grown, so has the demand for quality meat.

The large and efficient operation isn’t without critics. The film Food, Inc. touches on the cruel realities of factory farming and the hardships of being an undocumented immigrant working in a slaughterhouse.  Still, the Fortune 500 company employees more than 46,000 people, with major operations in Virginia and North Carolina, as well as  Mexico and 10 European countries.

Ham production in the area dates back to the 1750s. The packing firm that would become Smithfield Foods opened in 1936.  The town has a population of about 8,000. Isle of Wight County has around 36,000 residents.

85 runs down, 49 to go

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *