A spirited debate

The Rappahannock News editorial last week “What Do You Think?” sparked Jim Gannon’s “What’s the Matter With Rappahannock,” which in turn sparked a lively debate on the email list-serve Rappnet. Below are some excerpts:

Farming and housing

In regards to (Jim Gannon’s) editorial reply to the Rappahannock News, the 2007 agricultural data for Rappahannock shows 102 farms with 260 workers, which seems to counter his assumption that farming is “barely viable now . . .”
In regards to his comments on affordable housing, the MLS real estate listings show seven properties available in Sperryville. The lowest priced unit is $139,000 . . . . The reason it is priced so low is that it is about to be foreclosed and is in “short sale.” . . . The wage needed to afford that 30-year mortgage would be about $14.42 an hour, not including the cost of utilities . . .
I don’t know about you but I haven’t seen a lot of local job listings in the paper, much less “$15 an hour” openings. . . .

Chris Moyles
Executive Director, Rapidan Better Housing

Agricultural runoff

(Jim Gannon’s) points are pretty much right on . . . . The one weakness I note in his discussion is the failure to see the extent to which agricultural runoff, including cows in streams, is a huge pollution problem affecting water quality in our streams and downstream. Ag runoff is now the number-one pollutant of the Chesapeake and the easiest source of pollution to abate, now that urban sewage treatment is so much improved in the watershed.

The fact that cows have been pooping forever is not a good argument. . . . It is a damaging and correctable practice that has become large in scale with the exponential growth in livestock numbers over the decades.

This county at the headwaters of the Rappahannock watershed should not be sending polluted water to the counties below us. If we cannot have clean streams here, who can anywhere?

Paul Farmer

Farming and environment

The pollutant issue is a whole lot bigger than piles of cow poop, though I’ve seen a few pretty big ones . . . and so local farmers are getting an unfair share of the burden. But it is one area in which we know what to do and have current programs with which to do it at a greatly reduced cost to the farmer . . . .

What’s different now from what’s happened over the centuries seems pretty obvious: We’ve rather suddenly added exponentially to the amount of people and pollutants we’re asking the earth to manage on our behalf -– and often ignore the fact that it must try –- without being able to invest in or even afford in our wildest dreams commensurate mitigation.

Leaving the population argument aside, we know what it takes to do some of the pollutant mitigation, and where we have managed to invest in it, it makes sense to leverage the investment.

Without local farmers, I don’t know how we would have added as much to the body of knowledge we now have about land stewardship — soil management, crop rotation, you name it. Some of the best and some of the hardest lessons we’ve learned have been delivered on the aching backs of farmers. Farming is at the core of environmental consciousness . . . .

Cow poop may be the subject, but it’s not the issue. The better we all understand farming — and I’m at the front of that line of folks needing to know vast amounts more — the better we’ll be able to preserve what are, at essence, our common values . . . .

Rappahannock is one of the rare communities in which we are close enough to each other physically, philosophically and in terms of overall generosity of spirit . . . where we might actually be able to work out some truly groundbreaking improvements in the status quo.

It’s good to raise the issues and air ’em out. As we do, it’s also good to consider the time and energy it takes to take sides. We’ve got a big tent. We’re all under it.

Monica Worth
President, Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection

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