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.

uva basketball team of destiny

Team of Destiny: Inside UVA Basketball's improbable run

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, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.

augusta free press


Augusta Free Press content is available for free, as it has been since 2002, save for a disastrous one-month experiment at putting some content behind a pay wall back in 2009. (We won’t ever try that again. Almost killed us!) That said, it’s free to read, but it still costs us money to produce. The site is updated several times a day, every day, 365 days a year, 366 days on the leap year. (Stuff still happens on Christmas Day, is what we’re saying there.) AFP does well in drawing advertisers, but who couldn’t use an additional source of revenue? From time to time, readers ask us how they can support us, and we usually say, keep reading. Now we’re saying, you can drop us a few bucks, if you’re so inclined.

augusta free press
augusta free press news