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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam at Messick's Market on Thursday.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam chose Fauquier County to mark a preservation milestone for the commonwealth: more than 100 easements have been secured, preserving nearly 14,000 acres of working farms and forestland through the purchase of development rights program.

Northam came to a shaded grove outside Messick’s Farm Market in Bealeton on Thursday afternoon to tout the PDR program.

Bettina Ring, Virginia’s secretary of agriculture and forestry; state Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-24; conservation advocate George Ohrstrom of Clarke County; Fauquier Supervisor Mary Leigh McDaniel, Marshall District; and Jimmy Messick, owner of the farm market, were other speakers.

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Gov. Ralph Northam visited Messick’s Market in Bealeton on Thursday to talk about land preservation in the commonwealth.

Fauquier tops other counties in the number of acres preserved through PDR, a voluntary program that pays landowners to protect farmland and natural resources. Landowners forfeit the right to develop their properties while retaining ownership. Fauquier has preserved 13,000 acres through PDR.

Conservation easements are another way land can be protected. Under the conservation easement program, landowners convey property to a governmental entity or qualified organization. Landowners can receive a charitable donation tax deduction in return.

The county holds 8,000 acres in conservation easement, and overall, there are 110,000 acres in conservation easement, which represents about 26 percent of the county’s total land mass, McDaniel said. Fauquier got off to an early start in land preservation, starting with land in the 1960s in the northern part of the county.

Northam said that Fauquier is one of 16 localities that purchased 102 easements that permanently preserve nearly 14,000 acres of working farms and forestland through the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund. The state has provided $12 million in matching funds to local governments that invested more than $15 million in land preservation.

“Because of these investments, future generations will benefit through cleaner air, cleaner water, and a critical mass of high-quality land for food and forestry production,” Northam said.

Northam noted that agriculture is the state’s first largest industry and forestry, the third.

The governor singled out partners such as the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation, local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Messick recounted his family’s connection to the land starting in 1918, when his grandfather began dairy farming.

“By the late 1990s, my brother and I began thinking how we would pass this on to the next generation. Do we start processing milk or do we start a market?” Messick recalled.

They decided on developing a farm-to-table market and grow a variety of fruits and vegetables. They’ve preserved 700 acres of farmland, he said.

Ohrstrom said 21 percent of the land in Clarke County has been preserved. He called for more “robust funding” to be able to do more.

Ring said that “foresight, leadership and strong partnerships” produce results.

“It takes all of us working together,” Northam said.

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(2) comments

Mary Page

Cheers to the thoughtful individuals in Fauquier who thought to jump start conservation efforts all those decades ago! I am so grateful to live in such a jewel. Thank you!!


“A man is known by the company he keeps” -- Aesop

This is an election year. Reading this article I was trying to remember how many companies, organizations, restaurants and whatever denied a seat at their table for any Conservative, Republican or Trump supporter in election year 2016.

The grand masters of those and many other political atrocities then were as they are now. Liberal mainstream media and Democrat Party leaders always with a target, or series of targets in mind.

When Governor Northam said, “It takes all of us working together,” I don't believe for a second that he is thinking about conservation of dirt, water or growing better tasting tomatoes next year. By working together he means more power to the aforementioned grand masters even if it results in the destruction of a nice little family farm in Virginia.

I'm not sure if Mr. Messick knows the political makeup of his loyal customers base or not but I have an idea he just succeeded in cutting it in half.

Surely it is true that the sword cuts both ways. Michael Jordon (paraphrasing) knew this when challenged about his not publicly siding with the Democrats. "Everyone needs to buy shoes. Why in the world would I want to send any one of my customers away?"

Two things. Republicans have an extremly long memory. They rarely carry a grudge, but they will always get even. I nor our family will ever patronize Messick's Farm again.

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