Wednesday, July 1, 2009

suburban farming in virginia

The Washington Post has a story today about Jim Dunlap, a former CIA operations officer who has transformed his suburban plot in Loudoun County, situated among McMansions, into a small-scale farm.

His little piece of suburbia is perfectly situated for a small farmer just starting out: The land is fertile, and the location, just 55 miles from Washington, puts him within striking distance of lucrative urban farmers markets, where prices and demand are high for produce grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers. "We need to take a lot of this land that's used for pet horses and giant lawns and find ways to grow food on it again," Dunlap said. "My work is an experiment to figure out how we can do it."

Mr. Dunlap and others think that small-scale suburban farming is one model for future food development. He is planning to get acres from his neighbors -- who are supportive -- and he wants to set up small houses where young farmers could gain experience working on his farm.

For Dunlap, the stakes are high. Reviving suburban farming is not a luxury but a must. If -- or he would say when -- oil prices spike again, it will be less practical than ever to fly in grapes from Chile and apples from New Zealand. "If the future that appears to be coming actually comes, local food isn't going to be a nice thing; it's going to be a necessity," Dunlap said. "We have to find a way to feed ourselves. And the only way to do that is to create farmers."

We think if you have a guy from the CIA worrying about the state of the world's resources and America's land use, you should listen.

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