It#8217;s in the book

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 14, 2007

COURTLAND—If an effort by the Southampton Farm Bureau is successful, new county residents will know just what to expect from rural life before they ever set foot in their new homes.

Local farming practices, the Right to Farm Act, property rights and even hunting are among the topics covered in a new brochure aimed at smoothing the transition for an increasing number of people moving from the city to the country.

As houses continue to replace farmland in Southampton, county officials face frequent conflicts between new residents and natives. Clashes can arise because of the smell of pesticides on crops, the sound of peanut dryers at night or the sight of hunting dogs wandering across private property.

Some county officials expect the problem to get worse as the county attracts more development. Yet farming will continue to be a way of life for many families native to the area, and a trend toward larger farms is expected to continue.

The tension created by those competing trends was one of the main reasons a committee from the Southampton Farm Bureau set out a year ago to create the brochure, titled “Welcome to Southampton County, where agriculture is a way of life.”

“Basically we wanted to address a need to educate the public,” said Gary Cross, president of the local organization.

“It’s kind of like a church revival,” he added. “If you just touch one life, you may not be aware of what that that life will do.”

Farm Bureau is a non-governmental, non-partisan and voluntary organization with 2,100 members in Southampton County, according to the brochure. Among its goals, Cross said, are the “protection and security of the rural lifestyle” and the promotion of agriculture.

Unsurprisingly, the new brochure takes a strong stand in favor of Southampton agriculture, describing the importance of farming in general and in Southampton specifically before launching into a description of Virginia’s Right to Farm Act.

Readers are warned about common local farming practices and the inconveniences they can cause, from dust to noise and odors.

Property rights are discussed from the farmers’ point of view, with new residents admonished to keep themselves, their vehicles and items from their property out of fields unless invited to enter.

Finally, the brochure offers tips for living safely in a rural community. Sharing the road with farm equipment, what to expect from emergency services and co-existing with hunting dogs are all discussed.

“There is nothing in this brochure that would surprise people who’ve lived here all their lives,” Cross said, but it could be an important service to people who are new to the area.

If the brochure turns out to be successful, Cross said, another on a different topic could be developed in the future.

For now, though, the “Welcome…” brochure will be distributed to county offices that have significant interaction with the public. After an initial printing of 300 copies, another 300 have been ordered for placement in the Farm Bureau and Extension offices, at the library and at the Chamber of Commerce, Cross said.

The brochure was written primarily by Rose Bradshaw, Southampton’s 2006 Ambassador for Agriculture for the Farm Bureau. An agriculture student at Virginia Tech and the daughter of a Black Creek farmer, Bradshaw had a solid understanding of the issues the group wanted to cover in its first brochure, Cross said.