Rural Madison

A 501(c)(3) non-profit citizen’s organization dedicated to thoughtful planning and policies for sustainable growth, stewardship of our natural, cultural and historical resources and the protection of the rural character of our region.

Category: Conservation (page 1 of 3)

Green & Clean Day April 22

Make Every Day Earth Day!Bring your recyclables to the Transfer Station on Earth Day, April 22nd, 2017 to help us green and clean Madison!

Recycle up to 4 rimless, passenger vehicle-size used tires per household for free (no tractor tires, please)!

Free tree seedlings (white dogwood, indigo, white oak, white pine or sugar maple) for the 1st 150 vehicles.

Enter the sweepstakes to win fabulous prizes from local businesses, including Orange Madison Cooperative, MWP Supply, Inc., Yoder’s Country Market and Wild Birds Unlimited, Inc. (you must get your tickets at the event, but you do not need to be present to win).

Green and Clean Day April 22, 2017

Download printable Green and Clean Day flyer


Wendell Berry at the Center for a Livable Future

Media Advisory

Wendell Berry to Speak at CLF 20th Anniversary Celebration

Wendell Berry at the Center For A Livable Future

click to enlarge

The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) is kicking off its 20th Anniversary Celebration next week with events featuring award-winning author and farmer Wendell Berry and investigative journalist and author Eric Schlosser. Members of the media are invited to attend the events below or watch the live stream at:

The World Ending Fire: A Conversation with Wendell Berry 

Eric Schlosser, author and investigative journalist, and Wendell Berry, award-winning novelist, poet, and farmer, will discuss Mr. Berry’s writings and ideas about a wide range of topics, including agriculture, agrarian life, the pleasures of good food, and our food system.

When: Wednesday, December 7, 2016, at Noon-1 PM (EST)

Where: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
615 N. Wolfe Street, W1214 (Sheldon Hall)
Baltimore, MD

Notes: This event is not open to the public and space is limited. Please direct media RSVPs to The event live stream can be viewed here.


The Thought of Limits in a Prodigal Age

Wendell Berry will premier a new essay, “The Thought of Limits in a Prodigal Age,” during the 17th Annual Dodge Lecture. The Dodge Lecture was established in 1999 to honor Dr. Edward Dodge and his late wife Nancy for their generous support of the Center for a Livable Future.

When: Thursday, December 8, 2016, at 12:30-1:30 PM (EST)

Where: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
615 N. Wolfe Street, E2014 (Sommer Hall)
Baltimore, MD

Notes: This event is open to the public, but space is limited. Please direct media RSVPs to The event live stream can be viewed here.


About CLF: 

Since 1996 the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future has been addressing some of the most pressing issues in the food system while advancing public health and protecting the environment. As an interdisciplinary academic center based within the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Center is a leader in public health research, education, policy, and advocacy that is dedicated to building a healthier, more equitable, and resilient food system.

To join our mailing list for future events and news releases, please visit:

For more information or to RSVP, please contact: Darcy Milburn, Communications Coordinator at (978) 998-9319 or

Biomimicry vs. Biomockery

By Ruth Glendinning

Humans are biological creatures and we do best when we are in alignment with our environments. Ultimately, as noted in an earlier post, this comes down to the question of whether we are creating an egosystem or an ecosystem:

An ego-system is structured to satisfy shareholder wants and to privatize decision-making. Financial capital is valued above other contributions, costs are not fully disclosed and transactions lack transparency.

In the ecosystem, all stakeholders are committed to the shared wellbeing of the community. All forms of capital are valued, all costs are considered and transactions are transparent.

Are we creating and valuing our communities in ways that recognize & emulate the natural rooted patterns of thriving? Or using models that utilize the ‘greenwash‘ model in which the appearance of a commitment to community-focused solutions is used to cover up the fact that the true outcome plays out in an opposite manner to the goal of the announced initiative. In other words, are developers claiming biomimicry when, in truth, they are practicing biomockery?

Unbroken Ground: Revolutions Start From the Bottom

The film Unbroken Ground explores four areas of agriculture that aim to change our relationship to the land and oceans. Most of our food is produced using methods that reduce biodiversity, decimate soil and contribute to climate change. We believe our food can and should be a part of the solution to the environmental crisis – grown, harvested and produced in ways that restore our land, water and wildlife. The film tells the story of four groups that are pioneers in the fields of regenerative agriculture, regenerative grazing, diversified crop development and restorative fishing.

Enjoy this full length feature and join us in finding a solution to the environmental crisis through food!

The Land Institute is a non-profit research, education, and policy organization dedicated to sustainable agriculture based in Salina, Kansas, United States. Their goal is to develop an agricultural system based on perennial crops that “has the ecological stability of the prairie and a grain yield comparable to that from annual crops”

Institutional Wood Energy in Virginia – Why not?

Community Wood Energy Guide

See the Community Wood Energy Guide

The scientific, economic and anecdotal evidence to support the use of wood fuels for thermal energy is widely available, yet most Virginians are unaware that wood heat is feasible on an institutional scale. Why is that – a lack of information, misinformation, or something more?

The Virginia Community Wood Energy Program (VCWEP) explored potential barriers to increased thermal energy in rural Virginia through conversations and questionnaires with potential users operating public and private facilities. Those conversations offered the following insights to perceived barriers and potential opportunities regarding the state of community wood energy in the Commonwealth.

Individual Perception Barriers to Wood Energy:

  • Cost

Over the last 45 years, the real price of wood energy has actually declined. Woodchip prices have increased at less than the rate of general inflation over the decades, unlike oil and gas prices. Although few interviewed disputed the actual cost advantage of wood versus conventional heating fuels, the cost of boiler conversion and the on-going personnel costs of operating biomass boilers were recurring concerns.

The boilers needed for biomass heating varies, depending on the type of fuel. Biomass boilers do require additional storage and handling equipment compared to conventional liquid and gas fuels, but the fuel cost savings realized using biomass fuel pays for the boiler conversion costs.

Modern biomass boilers are commercially available for use in schools, office buildings, hospitals, and other institutions. They utilize automatic feed systems and advanced computerized controls to maximize the efficiency and performance of the equipment, minimizing operating costs, including personnel.

  • Supply

Virginia supports over 180 saw, chip, pulp and pellet mills that produce sawdust, wood chips and pellets as a primary or by-product. Even so, the reliable supply of fuel was a concern.

In fact, wood chips are a commonly sold commodity for pulp and paper production, and Virginia is currently exporting the majority of the wood pellets produced here to New England states and European countries, because the demand is there. Increased local demand would keep energy dollars local and reduce the carbon footprint associated with exporting.

Consulting foresters are available throughout the Commonwealth, who can help locate sources of fuel and negotiate supply contracts. Farm-based biomass fuels (native grasses and timber) are another growing sector of the supply market. By increasing local demand, farmers are offered an option that creates new markets and revenues, and may consequently save open land from development, in addition to keeping energy dollars local.

  • Environment

Concerns about potential air pollution and deforestation were commonly expressed environmental concerns.
In fact, commercial-scale boilers are able to combust biomass cleanly, with no visible smoke or odor, thanks to computer controls and other developments. Biomass combustors are permitted by Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and must meet all requirements for air quality. Woodchip boilers with modern emission controls have virtually no visible emissions or odors and emit far less particulate matter (PM) than home wood stoves.

Burning wood for energy also has a positive impact in moderating global climate change. Carbon dioxide (CO2 ) buildup in the atmosphere is a significant cause of global climate change. Fossil fuel combustion takes carbon that was locked away underground (as crude oil and gas) and transfers it to the atmosphere as CO2. When wood is burned, however, it recycles carbon that was already in the natural carbon cycle. Consequently, the net effect of burning wood fuel is that no new CO2 is added to the atmosphere.

The latest research out of Virginia Tech shows that the forests of Virginia are growing at least twice as fast as they are being harvested and can support increased utilization. Using waste products from timber harvests and sawmills for wood fuel offers a productive use for low-grade woody material. Sawdust and wood chips from sawmills are a waste that must be disposed of and are typically sold. Biomass removal after harvest operations generate additional revenue from material that would otherwise be open burned for disposal or left to decay. Improving forest health through thinning, invasive species management, and wildfire fuel load reduction operations comes at a cost to landowners.

Wood fuel markets can generate additional revenue from timber harvests for landowners, or at the very least offset the cost of forest health operations, thereby incentivizing landowners to actively manage their forests and to keep their forestlands as forest. Rather than causing deforestation, the sustainable removal of biomass can improve overall forest health and reduce the incidence of uncontrollable, devastating fires.

Systemic Barriers to Community Wood Energy

Since wood has been a source of heat for generations, most everyone is familiar with domestic wood heat, and many understand that biomass is a viable energy source for institutions and public facilities. Facility managers interviewed were generally aware that modern technologies allow for boilers to deliver safe, efficient and reliable heat. However, many public officials were unaware of the potential for biomass energy to improve community wellbeing through the creation of sustainable, local jobs that consequently contribute to healthy forests and diversified wildlife.

Institutional wood energy is a multisystemic, community-based alternative that impacts local economies, ecology and society. Everyone is understandably interested in utilizing fuels that save on the costs of heating; however, the economic benefits of keeping energy dollars within the community through sustainable jobs that also protect our environment strike chords throughout the community, including municipal planners and local leaders. Although the stable cost of wood per BTU over the past 45 years alone offers fiscal incentive, the added value created when wood energy is viewed systemically adds significantly to the overall savings.

Community systems begin with people – the systems reflect the needs of the people and once created, systems impact the lives of citizens within that system. Energy is often viewed as an external, uncontrollable cost, and energy choices are often a reaction to current although volatile markets and supply availability. Once energy consumption is viewed as a conscientious measure taken to improve the overall health and wellbeing of local citizens, environment and economy, the benefits are more than economic and indeed redefine costs/savings systemically.

A primary barrier to the increased use of thermal energy in rural Virginia may then be our incomplete picture of this community resource within the context of community systems. Perhaps we need to “re-package” energy as it relates to the whole community. For instance, while community planners are focused on generating jobs to boost local economies by adding businesses, sustainable jobs may be a natural byproduct of their energy systems. However, planners are typically not involved in discussions and decisions regarding local energy options. Likewise, county administrators are charged with managing multiple systems within a community, but may not play a major role in determining the heating systems for their schools. School superintendents typically defer to facilities and maintenance managers to recommend the best options for their schools, but they may not be charged to take into consideration how that system impacts the larger community.

The benefits and savings of modern thermal energy run deeper than the traditional analysis of cost per BTU. Communities are multisystemic – energy is yet another gear within a system that generates community well-being. Thermal energy offers more than an economically stable energy source. Sustainable jobs, healthier forests, cleaner air and a more diversified wildlife may be welcomed side-effects that not only reduce costs but contribute to healthier citizens.

“Our true destiny…is a world built from the bottom up by competent citizens living in solid communities, engaged in and by their places.” David W. Orr

“It is not more bigness that should be our goal. We must attempt, rather, to bring people back to…the warmth of community, to the worth of individual effort and responsibility…and of individuals working together as a community, to better their lives and their children’s future.” Robert F. Kennedy


Betty J. Dixon
Social Science Consultant
Virginia Community Wood Energy Program
A Program of the Center for Natural Capital – a 501(c)(3) charitable organization

130 W. Main Street
Suite 207
Orange, VA 22960
(540) 672-2542 (office)
540-847-7038 (cell)

The Center for Natural Capitol provides consulting and commercial services spanning four channels – energy, rivers, landscape, and people. Brian Becker is the Program Manager of the Virginia Community Wood Energy Program. Betty Dixon is a Social Scientist Consultant to the Program. Frank Kilgore is an attorney and conservationist in St. Paul, VA.

Rural Madison 2016 Pop-Up Film Fest

Please join Rural Madison for a pop-up film fest featuring stories about food, farming, and sustainability.



7:00 p.m., Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Madison County Extension Office
2 South Main Street
War Memorial Building, 2nd Floor
Madison, VA 22727

This event is free and open to the public.
Donations to help us cover expenses greatly appreciated!

food, farming, and sustainability


SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Real Food Films Contest is pleased to announce the outstanding finalists in its third short films competition featuring stories about food, farming, and sustainability. From the depths of fishing in Thailand, to the true grit of Alabama, the changing climate of maple syrup and creative ways to quell hunger, the ten finalist films cover a broad range of topics in today’s growing good food movement. A panel of judges, including Padma Lakshmi, Raj Patel, Susan Ungaro, and chef Tom Colicchio, will select the Grand Prize winner, first runner up, and special awards. Online voting, starting today, will determine the “People’s Choice Award” at

The 2016 Finalists were selected from 160 submissions representing filmmakers from 20 countries in this year’s first ever call for entries outside of the U.S. and Canada. Diverse formats include documentary to advocacy to spoken word. Films are all four minutes or under and feature original voices and stunning cinematography that lean toward the get-your-hands-dirty stories at the heart of the food movement over the perfectly styled plates of restaurateurs. Top 10 short films eloquently capture action in the food system from down the block and around the globe.

This year’s finalists include:

Everybody Eats | Boone, North Carolina | USA
Mindful Vineyards | Napa Valley, California | USA
Farmed with Love | Outskirts of Shanghai, China
A Sustainable Catch | Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand
McEwen & Sons True Grits | Wilsonville, Alabama | USA
Naturali Tea | Fujieda, Japan
Saving Sap | Loudon, New Hampshire | USA
The Kelly Street Garden | South Bronx, New York City | USA
Home Flavored | Oakland, California | USA
Beyond the Seal | El Oro Province, Ecuador

Prize winners will be announced on May 2, 2016 and include a $5,000 Grand Prize, a new $5,000 Lens on Hunger Award, as well as $5,000 more in awards for best student film, best cinematography, and more. All winning films have distribution opportunities with Contest media partners, including Devour! The Food Film Fest, Disposable Film Festival, SXSW Eco and Vimeo.

Viewers can join Real Food Media in celebrating the stories featured in these Top 10 films and vote for their People’s Choice favorite now through April 30 online.

The Wendell Berry Farming Program

Wendell Berry, the 81-year-old award-winning poet, fiction writer and essayist, has continued throughout his life to care for the Kentucky farm that generations of his family have tended. Seeking to pass on their farming legacy to a new generation, Berry and his family have formed an alliance with Saint Catharine College, a small Catholic liberal arts scohol run by the Dominican Sisters of Peace. Correspondent Judy Valente talks with Mary Berry, Wendell Berry’s daughter, and with nuns, students, and faculty members at the college about the lessons and values that spring from having a spiritual kinship with the land.

Related Reading


Avoiding & Reducing the Impacts of Transmission Lines

jamestown_transmission_line_drawing_credit_NPCS_400xvia the Piedmont Environmental Council

When faced with a transmission line proposal, people are left scrambling to protect their homes and community. And the deck is stacked against them.

To help level the playing field, Virginia Delegate Randy Minchew has introduced HB 908, which would:

  • Ensure the State Corporation Commission (SCC) and the power company do a better job at identifying and avoiding impacts to historic, scenic and environmental resources.
  • When impacts cannot be avoided, the commission “shall choose the corridor or route that minimizes such adverse impacts to the greatest extent reasonably practicable.”

Ask your legislators to support HB 908

This legislation is sorely needed to ensure historic, scenic and environmental resources are properly valued in the transmission line permitting process.

Dominion Power (and those happy with the current process) will be working hard to kill this legislation. The bill is slated to be taken up by the Special Subcommittee on Energy on February 9, but it’s important that your legislators hear from you now.

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