Category Archives: Agriculture

Farmer’s Market Study Yields Recommendations

The never-ending discussion about where to house the farmer’s market has started up again, Claudia Elzey reports for Charlottesville Tomorrow, in response to a study about creating a “market district” to house the weekly event. The company that conducted the study concluded that C’ville is too small to support a newly created area centered on a farmer’s market, and that it’s only realistic to create a simple, permanent location. That might be in the Water Street parking lot where it is now, or that might be in the gravel parking lot between South Street and Garrett Street (there are arguments for both), but the important bits are to establish both shade and permanent sheds for vendors to set up under. Right now, when it’s either hot and or raining, the setup can be inhospitable, and requires that vendors set up their own tents. Council is going to discuss the findings in April. If the past 40 years are any indicator, nothing beyond talk is liable to result.

County Sued Over Chicken Prohibition

Remember the county woman who wasn’t allowed by zoning to have miniature goats? Now a county man is suing the city for the right to keep chickens, Samantha Koon reports for the Daily Progress. A.J. Miller lives on Bennington Road, which is in the suburban neighborhood just off Barracks Road, sandwiched between Georgetown Rd. and Emmett St. He had a flock of them in the spring of 2010, but after a neighbor complained about the smell, the Zoning Board of Appeals affirmed that county zoning regulations simply don’t permit chickens to be kept in the growth area. Miller has sued the county, arguing that his constitutional rights have been violated. (Although the fourteenth amendment declares that “no state…shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, there’s just not a case to be made here that there is a lack of due process of law here.)

It is strange that keeping chickens and goats is legal in the city, illegal in the urban ring, and then legal in the country. I’m not aware of any kerfuffles over goats and chickens in the city since that became permissible a few years ago. The county ought to emulate the city’s approach, and perhaps improve on it to deal with complaints about noise (i.e., no roosters) and smells (chickens shouldn’t smell at all.) I’ve got chickens and ducks, all hens—they don’t make any noise but quacks and clucks, and they certainly don’t smell like anything.

Chain Store Selling at City Market

The Great Harvest chain has set up shop at the City Market, Graham Moomaw writes in the Daily Progress, and that’s got some local farmers upset. The market, overseen by the city, is meant to connect customers with local food producers, and over 100 folks have their names on a waiting list to get a spot at the popular weekly event. The Great Harvest Bread Company is a Montana-based chain, with hundreds of locations across the United States, established on a philosophy of providing more local control to franchisees than most chains. The city says that they were not aware that Great Harvest was a chain, although it’s not clear what difference that would have made in the application process. The owner of the local franchise says that there’s nothing wrong with allowing chains into the farmers’ market, while a couple of critics argue that, by that logic, Subway or Panera could set up shop there.

This debate has unfolded at farmers’ markets across the country, with some markets remaining dedicated to selling local produce, and others turning into something closer to weekly open-air markets for chains. Which approach is better depends on what each community thinks that the purpose of a farmers’ market is. We may be about to find out what the purpose of our farmers’ market is.

Human Feces Being Spread Across Albemarle Farmland

Human feces is being sprayed on a field near the South Fork of the Rivanna Reservoir, Sean Tubbs reports for Charlottesville Tomorrow, and it’s perfectly legal. The neighbors, understandably, aren’t thrilled. Recyc Systems, of Culpeper, has a permit to spread the waste—aka “biosolids”—on a total of ten square miles of the county, which they haul down here from Washington D.C.’s wastewater sewage plant. It’s all done for free because—would you believe it?—apparently people won’t pay to have human feces spread all over their property, but they will have it done for nothing. A recent study by the Environmental Protection Agency found that biosolids are full of all the horrible things that your body has the good sense to excrete, including steroids, hormones, flame retardants, and heavy metals. There are some legal restrictions that help, like that livestock can’t graze on the land for thirty days after application, and a plan has to be submitted that explains how phosphorous and nitrogen will be kept out of the watershed.

Even if the county wanted to limit this, there’s no reason to think that they could—it’s regulated by the state, and the county isn’t given the power to regulate it.

City Schools Moving to Healthful, Local Foods

There’s a movement afoot to improve Charlottesville school food, Rachana Dixit writes in today’s Daily Progress, and it’s picking up steam. The city has long employed a dietician in the form of Alicia Cost to feed its 4,000 students, and recently hired allowed Rachel Williamson to manage a food garden at Buford. The national movement in support of local food and the strengthening local food network are making it possible to feed kids more healthful foods than the standard fast-food fare (Domino’s pizza was a major daily offering when I went to WAHS in the early nineties), with the caveat that it’s got to be a) cheap and b) something that the kids are willing to eat. Martha Stafford, owner of the Charlottesville Cooking School, has been hired to come up with some new recipes within those parameters, and has recently been having luck with a black bean and rice taco.

It’s embarrassing how excited I am by this.

11/18 Update: Guinevere Higgins points out that Buford doesn’t employ Williamson—an independent organization does.