Preserving farmland benefits all Virginians

va-farm-bureauThe Shenandoah Valley farm where Jim and Annette Fitzsimmons live has been producing food since the 1700s. And while they don’t farm it themselves anymore, it’s leased to a local farmer, and the property is in the local land use assessment program, meaning it is dedicated to agricultural use.

“It has been a wonderful experience for all my children” growing up on the farm, Jim Fitzsimmons said. “We’ve raised sheep. We’ve shown sheep. We’ve raised cattle here. We’ve raised chickens. For them to have that childhood experience that can’t be offered anywhere else, it’s so precious.

“If you look out and you see the open fields … we would lose that value forever” if the property were developed, Fitzsimmons said. “And that is something I am committed to preventing.”

The Fitzsimmons family is not alone in being concerned about losing farmland in Virginia. Until the 20th century, land devoted to farming and forestry covered most of the state. By 1960, only half of Virginia’s approximately 25 million acres remained in farmland. In 2012, the total was a little more than 8.3 million acres, a loss of more than 5 million acres in less than 50 years.

At the same time, agriculture and forestry remain the state’s most valuable economic sector, worth $71 billion a year, according to a University of Virginia study.

In 2001 the Virginia General Assembly established the Office of Farmland Preservation within the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. That division of VDACS administers the state’s purchase of development rights program that was approved in 2007.

“That is a program that provides matching funding to localities to help preserve local land use easements,” said Andy Sorrell, OFP coordinator. “While the state provides matching funding, it is up to localities to determine which farms are the most important” to preserve.

The office also supervises the Farm Link program, a computer database of would-be farmers and current farmers interested in passing their operations on to the next generation. Other tools used to preserve farmland include land use-based taxation, transfer of development right, agricultural and forestal zoning districts and conservation easements.

For more information on Farm Link, PDRs or other farmland preservation issues, contact the office at 804-786-1906.

augusta free press
augusta free press news

UVA Basketball Fans!

uva basketball team of destiny
Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25. The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe, and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018 through to the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.

Dick Vitale on Team of Destiny: “This is a hoops story you will LOVE! Jerry and Chris capture the sensational and dramatic championship journey by Tony Bennett and his tenacious Cavalier team. UVA was Awesome Baby and so is this book!”

Ralph Sampson on Team of Destiny: “Jerry and Chris have lived and seen it all, even before my time. I highly recommend this book to every basketball fan across the globe. This story translates to all who know defeat and how to overcome it!”

Buy here.

AFP Business

As professional consultants, Augusta Free Press LLC provides clients in the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia and beyond with marketing and PR solutions including website design, SEO, TV/radio, video work, branding and logos, social media and overall marketing campaign design and implementation. Augusta Free Press LLC was founded in 2002.

Web Design

Augusta Free Press has designed more than 800 websites for clients in the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia. We take care of all facets of web design – visual design, layout design, content development and SEO. Short on staff? We’ll work with you to update your AFP-designed website in a timely manner or train your staff to make changes.

Marketing/Social Media Management

Augusta Free Press manages advertising campaigns for small- and medium-sized businesses across Virginia. You don’t need to hire a full-time marketing coordinator. Bring the experience of the Augusta Free Press team to work for you – for a fraction of the cost.

Graphic Design

Augusta Free Press will help you take your vision to the next level. From branding and logos to print materials, our team will work with you to develop products to showcase your business. From brochures and rack cards to full-color magazines or print/digital ads, we’ve got you covered.

Event Planning/Fundraising

Augusta Free Press will help you plan the best event for your organization. From an open house or anniversary to a 5K or Pay Per View, we can handle it all. Looking for training for your sales staff? We can help energize your employees or board. Need ideas to raise more money? Let us help you plan a successful event. Want to hold a news conference or need help with a press release? We can do that too.

Click here for more.