Outside the Novahood


A green cemetery could become an interment option in Central Virginia. The owners of Panorama Farms are hoping to add a natural burial ground to their property in Albemarle County. Green burial grounds do not use embalming, have no plastic liners, concrete vaults or exotic wood caskets and do not have plastic memorials. Instead, they use biodegradable containers, and gravesites are marked with flat stones or native plantings. State law currently requires cemeteries to be set back 750 feet from the nearest residents, and the farm has received waivers from two neighbors for the cemetery to be closer to their property.

A member of the family that owns the property said they are continuing to try to keep the farm an open space. “The question that faces every farm in our situation is, how do you pay for it? We believe and we hope that this will be the answer towards that,” he said. “Revenue from this would enable future generations to pay for what is our stated family mission — to maintain open space.” The farm’s owners have applied for a special-use permit for a cemetery on almost 20 acres near the farm’s northwestern entrance. The property is zoned Rural Area, which allows cemeteries with a permit.

Panorama Farms

The farmland as it appears today.

The owner said the farm has been an example of “innovative and pragmatic environmental stewardship” for almost 70 years. “We’re now looking for an alternative to the sort of conventional, standard, casket-involved burial or cremation,” he said. “We hope to make it locally a viable option for respectfully burying the dead.”

When an article about this appeared in the Charlottesville Daily Progress, it garnered three comments, all positive. The first one said, simply, “Sounds lovely! Where do I sign up?”

Farm to table may be fashionable at restaurants; farm to cemetery?


In the lawsuits, which are seeking $10 million for each plaintiff, the women describe what they said was a decades-long camp culture that let adult male staffers sexually abuse young female campers with impunity. Four of the women described the alleged abuse and a cult-like atmosphere at the camp, where they said they were taught unconditional love and forgiveness, even toward their abusers. “The organization made a rape culture possible,” said one.

Located in Rural Retreat, a small southwest Virginia town, the camp opened in the early 1960s; the organization was founded in 1931 by Edgar Cayce, who has been described as the “father of holistic medicine” and “the most documented psychic of the 20th century.” The organization describes its mission as creating opportunities for personal change in body, mind and spirit using Cayce’s readings.

The women describe various sanctioned events that led to the abuse, including a “Goddess Night” in which female campers would run through a field naked while male campers watched and yelled at them from a hilltop. Abuse reported to camp managers was never moved upward, the women say, and never reported to authorities. One of the camp’s tenets was forgiveness, which often had to be offered to one’s abuser.

The CEO of the organization reports being “horrified” by the accusations, and said that the camp, closed last year due to COVID, will not reopen before the allegations are investigated.

Go back to nature in the woods . . . just be careful who’s there with you.


Virginia’s wildlife agency is proposing major restrictions on keeping native reptiles and amphibians as pets. The proposals would ban the keeping of box turtles altogether. 

Box turtles are colorful, softball-sized reptiles that have been popular pets for generations of Virginians. But wildlife officials say the animals have become imperiled by people who pluck them from the wild. “Wild animals belong in the wild,” said Virginia’s state herpetologist. The proposal is aimed mainly at poachers, who can take animals in huge numbers. A particularly pretty box turtle can bring $20,000 in China, according to the agency. But the ban would also make it illegal for a child or adult to take a box turtle home.

The proposed ban is controversial. According to a past president of the Virginia Herpetological Society, “At a time when many children are glued to phones and computer screens, a box turtle ban would push young people farther away from nature, eliminating encounters that might inspire future conservationists. Being able to touch these animals and keep them as pets and study them at home, I think that is valuable. Why do you want to stop that?” But others disagree. “Catch and release,” says the current president of the Herpetological Society. “Take some great pictures, interact with it, then say goodbye.” But one concern is that such pets can become disposable.

The state Board of Wildlife Resources will consider adopting the rules May 27. The changes would take effect July 1.

Maybe it depends . . . is your box turtle a Democrat or Republican?







Categories: Issues, Local

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