Letter: In defense of Rappahannock agriculture

I offer a “glass half full” point of view in response to the April 4 editorial [“Rural or pastoral?”] claiming Rappahannock is less “rural” than “pastoral” because it has fewer farms than in the past. Successful agricultural enterprises are the lynchpin of our community, rural culture and environmental health.

Over the past 15 years, I have seen Rappahannock County agriculture (including viticulture, horticulture and related endeavors) become more vibrant, innovative and, in many ways, successful than ever before. Here are just a few indicators; maybe the Rappahannock News could report this story in more depth.

There is a branch of the Holistic Management International farmers club here, pioneering renowned innovative methods that were unheard of in Rappahannock 10 years ago. Four of our five county supervisors are farmers. And please do not discount the “real farmers” who work full time to manage and operate farms on land that others own.

Several of our farms market directly to consumers. We have active farm marketing and successful community-supported agriculture programs. Some of our farms have even brought in young people from around the country who contribute to the vibrancy of our community and the know-how of our farm industry.

Our public schools have an agricultural curriculum, and a famous Farm-to-Table program that encompasses a broad range of activities and ages, from little kids planting the school garden to high schoolers selling seedlings at the annual plant sale and learning culinary skills to turn produce into food products for the school cafeteria, local events and customers. We have schools in which agriculture is a central curriculum, such as Belle Meade and the Mountain Laurel Montessori Farm School in Flint Hill.

We even have a Rappahannock County Farm Tour! That was unimaginable 15 years ago when we started making a tourist map of farms in the county. Flavor magazine (now Food Shed) has featured many of our farms and vineyards over the past three years.

The locally based program “Plant a Row for the Hungry” receives thousands of pounds of fresh produce from our local farms and backyard gardens annually. Some of our farms sell high quality produce and meat at regional markets and restaurants. In addition to traditional farms, we have niche activities such as horticulture that focus on native species of plants.

In the summer time in Rappahannock you can now buy almost all of your food raised locally. The Rappahannock News can help in this industry by providing current information on local products and services in the agricultural-related field.

Beverly Hunter

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