Threats to the Ag Reserve
Keeping Farming Viable
As the years have passed in the Reserve, long time farmers have retired and often sold off land for non-agricultural uses, sometimes out of economic necessity… sometimes, not. Those purchasing the land may desire profit, not from working the soil, but from building upon it. It is, in part, because of those expectations that the cost of raw farm acreage has skyrocketed. Aspiring farmers face a daunting task: how to acquire land either by purchase or lease, increasingly expensive farm equipment, farmland management knowledge in an area where the soil is often marginal and rain sometimes scarce and the sound business acumen to get through it all without losing their shirt. One must wonder: who will face the challenges of becoming a new generation of farmers? Yet, in spite of all these challenges: there are those eager to live and work on farms. County and private initiatives that provide funding assistance and education can help keep farming viable. The public can help by insisting on, and buying, locally produced food products. One solution - our Land Link Program.
While many value the Agricultural Reserve for all that it offers: food production, habitat preservation, historic preservation, recreational opportunities and more- there are still others who continue to view it as a holding ground for future development and industrial/institutional uses. The challenge is to make the importance of the Reserve a regional issue and to ensure that value is perceived from preservation of place and purpose, and not the dollar value that some perceive may come of its exploitation. Solutions – Ag Education for county students both young and old, Reserve tours for decision makers and an award winning film that captures the wonder of the Reserve.
Sand mounds are alternatives to traditional septic systems. They were provided for cases of failed existing systems and for homes for children who will continue to farm the land. Unfortunately, this provision has been misused to facilitate development that is not agricultural in nature.
Private Institutional Facilities (PIFs)
The scale of these proposed facilities dramatically contrasts to the rural character of the Agricultural Reserve. If built, these institutions threaten to take acres of land out of agricultural production, increase traffic, and degrade our watersheds with polluted run-off from large parking lots.
Originally created to allow children of farmers to build homes and to live on family property so that the farm will endure, the child lot provision has been abused so that additional houses are built and then sold on the open market. There is is an opportunity to tighten language so that the true intent of the original provisions can been enforced: to promote the continuation of agricultural use on the land.
Highway through Reserve?
Virginia continues to have on its 6-year transportation plan, an outer beltway or “techway” (we call it “truckway”) This plan calls for a bridge over the Potomac, bisecting the Agricultural Reserve. This project represents over $1 billion expenditure, creates more traffic congestion than it would solve and spawns development in rural and semi-rural areas. Vigilance will be necessary to ensure that this plan is not realized. A full report on the increase in sprawl and traffic caused by this proposal is here.