Fighting for the future of our family farm
Young farming couple challenges standard-practice eminent-domain laws and asks for community support.

By Pablo Elliott


Welcome to Stoney Lonesome Farm: Soon to be
home of the "Buckland Bypass" and Dominion Power.
editor's NOTE

Pablo Elliott wrote bimonthly in 2005 for our New Farmer Journal from Stoney Lonesome Farm about the trials and tribulations of getting started.

Read more about Pablo and Stoney Lonesome Farm by clicking here.

Posted January 12, 2007: Our first three CSA seasons here at Stoney Lonesome Farm in Gainesville, Virginia, have been a crash course in how to grow a diverse range of vegetables, how to work with and build a community of support around our farm, and how to navigate any of a thousand different challenging scenarios. We have benefited tremendously from the knowledge and experience of others doing CSA programs, and from the accrued wisdom of the small farm community. We have been supported and encouraged through our tough first years by a local food network that recognizes the urgency of growing the next generation of farmers and preserving remaining farmland for an uncertain future.

Every day this country is losing acres of fertile soil to development. Often, even the farms that do thrive are punished for doing so. Our farm grows nourishing food instead of mansions and builds topsoil instead of bulldozing it for homes; we often describe our farm as an island in the outer-’burbs. While development gobbles up farmland at a dizzying pace through sales of farms, the farmer who chooses to not sell stands the increased risk of having the farm taken by eminent domain laws. If your farm is surrounded by sprawl, it will undoubtedly emerge as the scarce remaining open space desired for highways, power lines and pipelines.

Now in 2007, in the brave new world of eminent domain, we are fighting for the future of our farm. In the past two months, we have had not just one line drawn through our farm, but two.

A preliminary study for the "Buckland Bypass," a proposed major highway to connect commuters from an adjacent county to Interstate 66 while avoiding our town of Gainesville, features a route that would plow right through the heart of Stoney Lonesome Farm, through our main pond.

 

As if that is not enough, the latest map of Dominion Power’s proposed transmission line runs 15-story towers and a 500-kilovolt power line not a hundred yards from the projected route of the "Bypass."

The thought of living and working here on Stoney Lonesome Farm under high voltage EMF radiation, while breathing exhaust fumes from thousands of cars and trucks each day, is devastating. The visual and functional impact of these projects on our farm is hard to imagine: a major highway through our lower fields—our best soil and the future of our farm operation; monstrous transmission towers 15 stories tall and a 150'-wide barren scar below them—all through the land we are planning to steward far into the future.

Our farm is not a blank space for future lines on a map.

In the context of higher fuel costs and recent large-scale food distribution scares, local food systems emerge as a critical resource well worth protecting. Metro areas need power and roads, but they also need food. We took on the challenge of farming this land, providing a source of food for our neighbors and Washington, DC. Our farm is not a blank space for future lines on a map.

Both the Buckland Bypass and the Dominion 500-kV Power Line are unnecessary and ineffective fixes that would destroy some of northern Virginia’s most pristine farmland, wetland/environmentally sensitive areas, and areas of incredible historical and cultural significance. The Bypass proposal represents a major commuter detour that would literally pave the way for more sprawl and traffic (and, in turn, more roads through more farms). The power line proposal channels additional electricity production from some of the dirtiest coal plants in the country, supposedly to avoid speculated blackouts. In fact, a range of simpler and less destructive measures can avert these blackouts during periods of peak usage.

Seizing family farmland for projects that are destructive in impact, unnecessary in purpose, and ineffective in design represents a gross abuse of power and a rejection of common sense and of American values.

Our farm is the product of centuries of hard work, it provides local families with nourishing food, and it has a promising future for which we will, and must, fight.

We need your help. We need the growing community of folks who comprise the local food movement, from local food producers to local food eaters, to support one another, not just at the farm stand, but by taking a stand, as citizens, for the protection of our remaining farmland. Local farmers are often locally outnumbered. Please take a few minutes to visit our farm website, www.slfarm.us, to learn about how you can take action to support our farm. We need your support as a citizen who cares about the future of local food—we need your voice. Today it is our farm in harm's way, tomorrow it may be your neighbor’s or yours.

Concern for the well-being of Stoney Lonesome Farm and our future here is sincerely appreciated. If all of us give a public voice to our concerns, common sense will soon prevail in these matters.