‘Cynical’ vision on farming

The article “The Land, A Plan, A Future” in last week’s issue is interesting and informative, but we take issue with the thesis that farming in Rappahannock County has little or no value.

We agree that tourism will play a major role in the future economic viability of this county. However, tourism depends on view sheds that highlight working landscapes that include a diversity of pastures with grazing livestock, hay production, sustainable crop and vegetable production, wineries, and, yes, well managed natural areas.

The prominent quote that “the future is not farming in Rappahannock”, if not taken out of context, disregards the central role that farming plays in maintaining our landscape. The proposed option “… keeping the land open and beautiful and native and hopefully attacking invasive species” is naive. “Hopefully” doesn’t cut it. Open space that has no effective management for invasive species will dramatically undermine the ecological health and beauty of the individual parcels and the surrounding landscape. That costs money. Managing that land through farm operations is one of the most cost effective ways to sustain our precious landscape.

Many of us lease land to farm. Our lease payments and management are critical to nurturing that land. Farming is challenging, but around the country, folks like us are working to develop new business models that both enhance the profitability and ecological regeneration of our landscapes. Accepting the cynical narrow vision that agriculture is dead creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. That is not where Rappahannock County should go.

Jodie Millies, Matt Paffhausen, Mike Sands, Betsy Dietel, David Massie, Mike Peterson, Molly Peterson
Rappahannock County

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One thought on “‘Cynical’ vision on farming

  1. Some would argue that “effective management of for invasive species” by introducing other invasive species, i.e. cow calf operations and hay grass varieties, is not effective management. The “precious landscape” so valued in Rappahannock is not a native landscape, but a landscape altered since indigenous groups first began controlled burning to create forage zones for wildlife thousands of years ago.

    This pastoral landscape is beautiful to behold, but should not be held as some relic of a mythical Eden. It is an ecological state we choose, because it resonates with us aesthetically, not because it is the most “ecologically healthy” vision for the land,or the most economically sustainable plan for the community.

    A good question to ask is “Which farmers are truly making a living as farmers in Rappahannock? Cow-calf operations, corn fields, or small, niche specialty farmer serving the metro area?”

    A true vision of a sustainable, community based, economic model for Rappahnnock needs to include the ability for small scale niche farmers to lease/purchase small acreage with good soils, and be able to live on that land. Twenty-five acre lots sizes and no affordable housing prices out this form of sustainable agriculture.

    The “cynic” you call out as not being visionary has, in fact, been one of the most visionary farmers and landowners in Rappahannock County in promoting this form of sustainability.

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