Like many Piedmont farms, Over Jordan Farm in Rappahannock has been a pasture-based operation for decades. After 20 years of overgrazing, however, it’s facing issues that are common in the region—poor soil health, a lack of grass and plant diversity and the resulting lack of nutrients for livestock.
Virginia’s northern Piedmont is a beautiful and vibrant place—boasting of forests, rivers, mountains, farmland, thriving towns, and numerous historic and cultural resources. But all of this came under threat in November 1993, when the The Walt Disney Company made a surprise announcement that they planned to build an American history theme park near what was then the small town of Haymarket, VA—only four miles from Manassas Battlefield.
To say that Marie Ridder, 88, is an accomplished woman is an understatement—and as I drove to meet her for our interview, I was both excited and nervous. Marie has been a highly successful journalist and editor who would later devote her career to social and environmental issues.
She worked for Lady Bird Johnson in the ‘60s as her liaison to White House poverty programs, and became the deputy director of Head Start. Marie also worked for the Department of the Interior and was appointed to Secretary of the National Parks Advisory Board. She serves or has served in numerous conservation organizations, including the Virginia State Parks Commission, the Virginia Council on the Environment, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and PEC.
In June 2011, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors shocked constituents by holding an unpublicized, late-night vote to resurrect the Route 29 Western Bypass, northwest of Charlottesville. Since then, VDOT—under pressure from political interests in Lynchburg and the McDonnell administration—has put the Bypass on the construction fast-track. While communities north of Charlottesville may think this bypass is only a local issue, there are compelling reasons for Virginians everywhere to pay attention—and it’s not just the quarterbillion dollar price-tag. Big picture: this bypass is part of VDOT’s vision to transform Rt. 29 into a Central Virginia Interstate; acting as an alternative to I-81 and I-95. This is not only a bad idea, it’s not feasible without a massive right-of-way acquisition and billions of dollars in funding.
Over the past year, there has been an increasingly heated debate over whether and how local governments should regulate the entertainment activities of farm wineries in Virginia. This is a multifaceted issue with multiple interests involved, and what works for one county doesn’t necessarily work for another. As more farm wineries make their home in the Piedmont, localities will have to decide what future they envision for their rural areas and their communities—and how farm wineries fit into that picture.
Hope Porter and Sue Scheer have been fighting to protect rural land for decades. It was in the late 1940s that Porter and her husband realized what the post-war surge in automobile ownership and long-distance commuting could mean for Fauquier County, their home—unless people stood up to protect the countryside. Together with a few likeminded neighbors, they worked to establish the county’s first zoning, when any kind of land use planning was still a rarity.
Farmers are using a unique incentive program coordinated by PEC to substantially expand water quality protections in our region. The program helps cover their costs for fencing livestock out of streams.