Monday, March 14, 2016

Zoned - Exclusive Ag

-wall art from the
On this Monday of Ag week, we’re marking a bit of an anniversary here on the hill.

19 years ago today (March 14, 1997), our offer to purchase this little bit of Augusta County was finally accepted. 

In reality it was in fact our counter-offer that was accepted.

This was a big deal.

A VERY BIG deal.

We had spent the six previous weeks (yes, six weeks, it only seemed like eternity) “walking in the wilderness” after experiencing the single-most shocking, horrifying and heartbreaking experience of our lives. (for the abridged version…click THIS)   We had looked high and low to find a place to begin our lives anew.

This acreage was the very last entry on the list the realtor gave us.

Somehow, we figured we could make this into a new home.

We made a fair offer...

And, the seller turned us down. Flat.

To say we were devastated would be an understatement.

We ran the figures again and made a counter-offer. It wasn’t much more, but amazingly it was enough to satisfy the seller. The acceptance of that offer was our life-line. It didn’t matter that there was no house, no barn…nothing.  It just mattered that it was ours. (although, we didn’t actually take possession for another 10 days)

We didn’t have any real ideas on what to do next and we certainly didn’t have a BUSINESS plan. (and, we still don’t…have a business plan)

But, wait a minute! You said that it’s Ag week…and what on earth does this story have to do with Ag? (I’m getting there…really)

Augusta County boasts more farm acreage than any other county in the state of Virginia. We were already living in the northern end of the county and something about the wild, rural scenery spoke to our souls. So, when we were looking for a spot to rebuild our lives, we knew that Augusta County and Agriculture would play a part somehow. But, our meager purchase didn’t look like a FARM in anyone’s mind. (and, quite honestly, it still doesn’t)

Homestead Hill in March '97

However, this property was zoned EXCLUSIVE Ag. 

To our minds, that was exactly what we needed. No restrictions on the type (or number) of livestock…no homeowners’ association to dictate what the place looked like. BUT…(you knew that was coming, didn't you?) ...Exclusive Ag also means that the income generated from the property must be somehow farm-related. (there are exceptions/options, but we didn't have the $ to pursue them)  That meant that the business we were hoping to make our living from, the one that the Boss honestly seemed the best suited for…wasn’t gonna happen…at all.

We were going to have to “drop back and punt” again.

Life had thrown us more than a few curve-balls…and honestly, the story of our lives together should be titled …SUBJECT TO CHANGE…(but, that’s for another day)

So…re-think this thing.

And that means…Agriculture.

What on earth can you do with Agriculture when you have just purchased twelve acres of rocky hill? Just 12 acres. And, it’s mostly hill. A hill made of rock.

The plan didn’t make itself clear to us all at once. We actually have to thank friends, neighbors and probably a few complete strangers for the odd and random insight that helped us to re-invent ourselves and develop what is now a working farm…Homestead Hill Farm.

If it wasn’t for that EXCLUSIVE Ag zoning, we would have never begun to “think outside the box”, to consider new and creative ways to generate income, to use the opportunity to teach our children about life, to grow as human beings and understand animal husbandry…and appreciate and love this land that we have been granted to care for.

We probably wouldn’t have become farmers’ market vendors, which now defines us in many ways. 

We wouldn’t have discovered the strength and fortitude that forging a life on a tiny piece of property requires.

So, personally, Agriculture actually means far more than just…

“the science or practice of farming, including cultivation of the soil for the growing of crops and the rearing of animals to provide food, wool, and other products.

Agriculture defines me. Ag gives me hope, direction and purpose. (and pays the bills)

dawn at the barn

 It’s Agriculture Week…does Ag mean anything to YOU?

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