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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Local Old Order Mennonites Preserve The South's Most Unspoiled Family Farm Area

Rural Mole Hill area (photo courtesy of Phil Kniss)
Few of us realize what a treasure our Old Order neighbors have maintained for us in the area south and west of Harrisonburg from Bridgewater to Singers Glen. Here some 300 conservative Mennonite families are quietly preserving a cultural, religious and agricultural heritage unlike any in the entire South, contributing much to what makes this part of our Valley so attractive and productive.

Members of this counter-cultural group, unlike their more modern Mennonite and other Protestant neighbors, provide for all of their children’s schooling, utilize no welfare benefits, and require little in the way of road improvements, law enforcement or other government services. In addition, many of them contribute generously to such causes as our local blood bank and to disaster and relief needs in Virginia and around the world, while paying property and other taxes like the rest of us.

photo by Phil Kniss
These are not perfect people by any means. Like all of us, they have their full share of human problems. But we owe them a great debt of gratitude for sparing much of the southwest quadrant of our County from the kind of commercial and residential development that is becoming more and more typical of vanishing rural areas in the state. And this living museum of well kept family farms remains the jewel that it is at no cost to taxpayers, thanks to a community whose most valued product is healthy families and hardworking neighborhoods.

South Main Street) in Harrsionburg
I have long been concerned about how development along Route 42 (South High Street) from Garbers Crossing to Bridgewater is turning that stretch of highway into another East Market Street (toward Elkton), resulting in the area becoming less and less hospitable to the Old Order's plain and simple way of life. And will we be able to avoid having a similar kind of “sprawl-mart” develop along the West Market Street corridor between Harrisonburg and Hinton?

To paraphrase a familiar text, What does it profit us if we gain more traffic, pavement and parking lots (and short term profits for a few) but lose a valued part of our Valley’s soul?
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