Nelson finds a niche

For much of rural Nelson County’s history, little more than hiking trails and mountain scenery drew visitors. But then farming became harder to sustain, the few factories pulled up stakes and the county knew it needed another way to thrive. Enter Maureen Kelley, the head of Nelson’s economic development and tourism department. She saw the county’s assets blending around outdoor recreation, festivals and locally grown food and beverages -- and that plan is ushering in revitalization.

The struggle to stay

Some call it the Rappahannock Hustle, and the many who do it need no further description. It’s the way to make ends meet by stitching various small jobs, formal and informal, into a livelihood. It helps prop up the local economy. But it also hews tightly to two challenges facing Rappahannock County’s younger population: stable, well-paid work and affordable housing. Addressing those challenges matters more as the overall population ages and as other rural counties compete to draw in people who bring new ideas and vibrancy.

An anomaly for his time

He could give you a shave or take a few inches off the top. Need a new timepiece? He could custom make one. He’d have just the right broach for the portrait he would offer to take. And if you weren’t careful, you could leave his shop on Sperryville’s Main Street with a new piece of property. James Arthur Engham was “the original entrepreneur,” his grandson James Russell would later write. For decades Engham’s story earned little attention. Now, more than 80 years after his death, the man widely known as J.A. is remembered as a barber, jeweler, farmer, dentist and one of Rappahannock’s most successful African-American businessmen.

Through her commitment, young EMS captain aims for change

There is no average day at Chester Gap Volunteer Fire and Rescue. Fire Chief Todd Brown or his deputy, both of whom are retired, are usually on hand. But calls come in unexpectedly and someone always needs to be at the ready — for anything.The not knowing used to be the hardest part about the job for volunteer Angelica Vittitow, the 25-year-old captain of Chester Gap’s emergency medical service (EMS). The greater challenge for her now, perhaps, is finding a way to make a job she does out of devotion to her community.

Plowing the way forward

She may have completed her final 4H farm show last weekend, but 19-year-old Kristen Jenkins’s work with livestock is far from over. She'll head the 4H junior livestock club in the fall and take a more active role in her family's farm -- all while taking nursing classes at the community college. She's rare example of someone who is choosing to stay in Rappahannock and continue to invest in agriculture. “When I was little my grandpa and my dad would sit me up on the fence post, and I’d count the cows as they went by,” she says. “I’ve always had it in my blood.”

Dutch TV news crew quizzes county Trump supporters

A Dutch nightly news program recently brought together some of Rappahannock’s more conservative voices to share their views on the Trump administration and gauge how the president is performing after 18 months in office. They covered the gamut: border controls, necessary; corruption, declining; conservatism, ascendant. Do they like what Donald Trump is doing as president? “What’s not to like?” Demaris Miller asked back. “He loves America, he loves the American people, he really wants to put America first, but he wants to be fair, so it’s hard not to like that."
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