The Northern Neck of Virginia is a peninsula with the Potomac River to the North, the Rappahanock River to the South, and the Chesapeake Bay to the East. It is also a very remarkable place. During VALOR’s latest trip there, I became fascinated with this area of Virginia. Before this seminar, I had not visited the Northern Neck for any length of time. I did not know what I was missing!
While close to metropolitan areas, the peninsula was surprisingly very rural. The landscape is dominated by crop fields, wood lots, and coastal wetlands. We visited in mid-September, when grain harvest was just getting underway. What a perfect time to visit! We visited with P.J. Hainey in his corn field to discuss agriculture on the Northern Neck and beyond.
The Northern Neck is shaped by water, literally and figuratively. The peninsula’s industries are dominated by abundant resources provided by the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal waters. We visited OMEGA Protein, where they catch a species of fish called Menhaden and then process them into fish oil and fish meal. The Menhaden fishery is currently embroiled in controversy due to alleged over-fishing and the importance of Menhaden to the ecosystem. It seems, however, that the population of Menhaden is at sustainable levels, and that companies such as OMEGA have taken great care to not exhaust the resource.
The most memorable part of the seminar, however, was the overnight trip to Tangier Island and Port Isabel via an hour long boat ride. Tangier Island is a wonderful little village dead center in the Chesapeake Bay. We met with the mayor of Tangier, walked around the island, and visited shanties where watermen docked their boat and kept their supplies. We were guided by educators for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation who showed us how to set crab pots. I even had time to do a little fishing!
The discussions we had while on this experience were quite fascinating. We were able to debate controversial issues, reach conclusions with each other, learn about ourselves, and delve deep into complex interactions. I am energized having learned of new perspectives, and excited for the opportunity of growth gained from this experience.