Those who know the secrets of the dirt are leaving us. The hardworking sweaty browed farmers who could pick up a fistful of soil and tell when it was ready for seed, or point to a furrowed patch and say, “That is the best spot for onions in the garden,” are dying and their children are selling the land because farming is just too hard and doesn’t pay particularly well. The former vegetable gardens and apple orchards and timothy grass pastures are being buried beneath housing developments that have sprouted up on former meadows like mushrooms on cow pies. What’s been built can’t be unbuilt.
Joe and I just returned from a four day anniversary trip through the central and western sections of Virginia. We were appalled by sprawl. We found battlefield land preserved in narrow strips that were bounded on either side by shopping malls, housing developments and storage units. We climbed Lee’s Hill in Fredericksburg and stood with our backsides practically in someone’s storage shed as we gazed out on what used to be pasture but is now a commercial district. We drove scenic routes that showcased run down farms and encroaching malls. And, we were sad. Living in our little forgotten gem of a county, where there is only one blinking stoplight and whether or not to build a Dollar General was a much debated topic, has spoiled us. We gaze daily on cows and sheep and rolling, vibrant pastures so it is understandable that we found most of the scenic routes a bit of a letdown. But we were shocked by how fast it is all disappearing.
We drove on roads that used to be lined with daisies and chickweed and are now lined with malls and we wondered why we need so many of them. What is everyone buying? And the even bigger question is: What will everyone eat when all the farms are gone?