We have much to be thankful for here in Rappahannock County, living among caring people in a beautiful natural setting.

Housing:  A conversation on solutions

The discussion at Foothills’ Nov. 17 virtual housing forum was vigorous, wide-ranging and well-informed.

Berni Olson of the Rappahannock Benevolent Fund, one of more than 50 participants, spoke for many:  “I’m tired of just talking about the issue. I want to talk about solutions.”

Possible courses of action were a piece of Sara Schonhardt’s September “Home Sweet Home?” series in the Rappahannock News, which prompted the forum.

Solutions proposed at the forum included: Conducting a survey of tenant houses on large land holdings and co-housing (Olson); protecting the inventory of smaller, affordable properties and creating incentives for the renovation of farm houses (County Supervisor Keir Whitson); cluster housing (Ralph Bates); and looking into local housing nonprofits like the Windy Hill Foundation in Middleburg (Betsy Dietel).

We’re grateful to panelists Sara, Betsy, Patrick Mauney, Mary Kay Ishee and Aron Weisgerber, and ace moderator John McCaslin.

Watch the entire housing forum here.  And let the dialogue – and the solution-finding – continue.

Land and landscape: A backdrop and a business

Rappahannock’s “land tucked inside sunsets, punctuated by fences and streams, home to calf-and-cow operations, vineyards, fine eateries, art galleries and footpaths” is the county’s great treasure, reported Tim Carrington Nov. 12 in the Rappahannock News. “The cows, cooks, artists, tourists and retirees all are here because of the land, whether they gaze at it or graze on it.”

In “Protecting Paradise,” part two of a revealing special report on the environment made possible by Foothills Forum, Carrington described the “three-legged stool” that governs how we use our land base:  “Conservation easements remove land permanently from development; land-use tax deferrals lighten the tax burden on land under management; and third, business strategies (generate) enough income from land to reduce the temptation to sell.”

As a result, he reported, of the county’s total 170,500 acres, only 14 percent is taxed at fair-market value, yielding 70 percent of the local revenue necessary to fund schools and a panoply of other public services.

Watch for part three on water and soil resources (this week) and the local effects of climate change (Dec. 9).

Photo by Luke Christopher for Rapp News

A texter extraordinaire

Sara Schonhardt, the Rappahannock News’ daily texter, has been recognized for her exceptional outreach efforts.

Subtext, the private text subscription platform that allows content creators like the News to connect with their readers, announced this month that the recipients of Sara’s afternoon text messages have increased since the service launched back in April. Between September and October, for example, the subscriber list grew nearly 10 percent, the highest month over month growth among the platform’s users.

“Sara does a stellar job collecting and answering questions and has been simply blown away by the personal and thoughtful responses she receives from her audience,” said Subtext. “Perhaps that explains why she’s become a master at taking questions from her subscribers and turning it into content.”

“I’d like to think word of mouth counts for something, too, in this small county of just 7,000 people,” said Sara. “I’ve had several subscribers say a friend pointed them to the service, and I’ve gotten feedback that they’re enjoying getting daily updates this way.”

If you’d like to sign up, do so here:

Gifts of stock: Dollars and sense

Foothills has received a donation of stock – its first – from long-time Rappahannock resident and Foothills supporter Steph Ridder.

“We wanted to maximize our contribution to Foothills and, at the same time, manage our money in the most prudent manner possible,” says Ridder. “Donating stock to Foothills was simple and smart. I recommend it.”

A stock donation gives Foothills’ backers another way to fund robust, independent journalism in Rappahannock. This is because anyone selling a stock that has gained value since its purchase may, upon selling it, incur a capital gains obligation of 20 percent or more. Stock donations also earn the donor a tax deduction.  Steph was also strategic in the timing of her gift, coming as it did during the year-end NewsMatch campaign (see below!).

Consult your financial adviser before reaching out to Foothills at

NewsMatch:  The time is now!

Yes, it remains a great time to donate to Foothills Forum.

NewsMatch continues through Dec. 31, as does its 1:1 leverage opportunity from national journalism funders sponsored by the Institute for Nonprofit News.

In addition, Dec. 1 – the first Tuesday following Thanksgiving – is the annual “Giving Tuesday.”  Created in 2012, and serving as a counterpoint to “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday,” Giving Tuesday has become a national occasion for individuals to make financial donations to nonprofits doing good around the country.

It’s a great time to give!