Finding a place in Charlottesville

In December, I sat with a group of young African-American men in Charlottesville. All have jobs. Some have multiple degrees. Some are supporting young families. One has a masters from UVA. He is an accountant and, like the other men in the room, feels squeezed by the high price of living in Charlottesville. "I don't know how to get a $500,000 house. I don't know who those houses are for, but it isn't us. We need everyone to have the same opportunity. That means having more big business in Charlottesville. Small tech firms aren't doing it." 

His colleague works at UVA scheduling cancer patients. "There's no advancement here. You pick up a second job. You spend all that time working and you forget to live." He moved to Ruckersville to find affordable housing.

Another of the young men works at a wine distribution company. He has worked there for eight years. "I'm getting $18 an hour. There's no way to move up. I'm working two jobs. My fiancée is working two jobs. I can't afford anything. I had to move to Scottsville."

Another Charlottesville exile moved to Buckingham in order to afford housing. He has an hour commute to the children's doctor's office where he works.

Like many of their generation, they feel trapped by stagnant wages and high housing costs. All feel that race handicaps them even more. "We shouldn't have to keep climbing over these hurdles.  Just to be an equal citizen is twice as hard."

Let's work together to give Virginians a raise and promote racial justice. 

We talked about what happened on August 12th and what it means for racial justice in Charlottesville.  The notion that white supremacists are allowed to enter the city, heavily armed, makes everyone in the room laugh. "If we walked in with weapons, we would either have been shot or we would be in jail. How did they allow that to happen? It's a slap in the face." Their take on the statue of Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park is instructive. "I've lived here for 20 years and that statue never bothered me. If you want to do something, tell the whole story. These people (the Nazis) made it a big deal. Trump has brought a lot of people out of their closets. These people came looking for war."

Just outside Charlottesville, I visited the Horn family goat farm and cheese-making operation on Red Hill Road. The creamery will be up and running in February. There will be fifty milkers in the herd. To guard the goats, they have a Turkish Akbash, a gregarious dog called Zena. They are about to give Zena a friend, a Karakachan, named after Balkan nomadic shepherds, another breed that is excellent with goats. The creamery has a solar roof which will take care of electricity for the barn and the dairy and will pay for itself in five years. "Cheese made by hand, powered by the sun," one of the cheese makers smiles. 

The elegant milking machine comes from Fisher and Thompson in Cumberland. The solar panels are from Sun Tribe Solar in Charlottesville.  The family is purchasing pigs to dispose of the whey. In the Charlottesville region, there are three goat cheese operations. "One has four guys versus the four ladies here." Small, specialty farms are multiplying and the Horns are in the forefront of the movement. They will sell to local restaurants and markets. "We want to be a stop on the Monticello wine tour." The tour is run by their friend Andrea Saathoff who owns Albemarle Limousine and Travel Service, a certified Woman Owned Business serving guests who don't want to drink and drive.

The cheese makers in the district cooperate rather than compete. "We have a tribe," say the Horns. "Cheese, like wine, has a terroir." Every farm with its different soil and micro climate will produce a different taste.


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