By. Neil Williamson
Despite planning efforts to the contrary, a significant number of new residents are choosing to live in the rural areas. In addition, the development areas often abut farmland. While there is a romantic notion of moving from the city to the country (think Green Acres), there is much more to farm life than you find in Rural Living magazine.
In his new book, Welcome to the Country, Patrick County Farmer Frank Levering helps explain some of the niceties, nuances and nuisances that are a part of country living.
Welcome to the Country introduces urbanites (and the rest of us) to “country culture”… sharing the unwritten rules by which rural people live. He describes the motivation for the recent rural retreat:
These days, what motivates urban refugees typically isn’t the desire to do serious farming. But what can happen out in the country, farming or no farming, hasn’t changed much. The country is still the country — manure is still manure, and a mudhole after a thunderstorm is still a mudhole after a thunderstorm. The trick — now as it was then — is knowing what to expect, and not going ballistic when things you may have taken for granted back in the city can’t be taken for granted anymore…..
Some of the natives can be a tad ornery about all of this. “People,” one of them told us tartly, “want a rural setting but urban services.”
Levering also highlights the farming career, including the “second” job that helps balance the farm families checkbook. He introduces us to local farmers like Carl Tinder, Corky Shackleford, Rob Harrison, Henry Chiles and many others. The openness and candor they share regarding the challenges and rewards of their agricultural enterprises is most illuminating. Listening for the other side, Levering spoke to many so called newcomers including Jim Turpin, Susan Prokrop, Dean and Susan Vidal.
Levering does a good job describing the high potential for culture clash between farmers, foresters and new homeowners. Whether it is the large piece of farm equipment on the windy backroads between fields or the cows wandering in the front lawn after finding a break in the fence. There are a multitude of potential conflicts.
One scene in the book relates to a farmer who had sprayed his row crops in the morning running into his newly arrived neighbor at the country store. The neighbor was concerned because there was a bit of wind and some of the spray may have drifted over to his property. The farmer was defensive, having heard from such knowledgeable newcomers before and he did not think he should have to explain that the fertilizer was expensive and he wasn’t going to waste it if it was too windy to apply it.
There are also warm rural stories where newcomers and farmers work together to get through drought, clear roads, herd lost cattle and much more. The book concludes with a great list of seven boiled-down tips for creating community in the country.
The Farm Bureau, the Ballyshannon Fund, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia State University and Virginia Tech all contributed to this excellent holiday read.