In-Depth Reporting


Hemp retailers say a Virginia law is driving them out of business

Since July 2023, the state has imposed a stricter definition of hemp than what federal law requires. State inspectors issued $7.3 million in fines against nearly 200 shops in the law's first 10 months because products contained too much tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the psychoactive chemical in hemp and marijuana products—or violated labeling rules.

NCAA transfer portal weakens athletics at VMI

The widespread use of the portal has exacerbated the small military school's long-standing struggles to recruit student-athletes. Recruiting has never been easy for VMI because of the college's military structure, its history of racism and sexism, and a lack of funding that has left its athletics programs in the red.

Natural Bridge Zoo: Who cares for the animals?

For 30 years, the zoo has been cited time and again for poor care of animals it displays for the public. But now, the zoo's owners face what may be their toughest challenge ever as lawyers in the state attorney general's office seek nearly $120,000 to cover costs of caring for animals that were seized during a state police raid.

Outdated Rockbridge area water systems

Lexington, Buena Vista and Rockbridge County are locked in a defensive and expensive posture as they plug leaks and fix aging water and sewer pipes one at a time because it would cost millions of dollars to replace them all at once. The band-aid approach means that water and sewage bills that are already high will continue to increase.


Divided EducationDivided Education

More than 30 years ago, officials in the city of Lexington and Rockbridge County formed an unusual hybrid education system for children in the area. Each jurisdiction operates a separate K-8 school system. Beginning in ninth grade, all students attend Rockbridge County High School. The agreement expires in 2040, but formal talks must begin by 2035. Discussions could begin sooner, as Lexington’s school board transitions to an elected body from an appointed entity.

VMI: Part, Present, FutureVMI: Past, Present & Future

Cadets have not fought as a unit in a domestic war since the Civil War. But they now find themselves in the middle of the culture war over the term DEI, the abbreviation for diversity, equity and inclusion. The word equity is drawing the most fire and putting the nation’s oldest state-funded military college in the spotlight as it grapples with allegations of rampant racism and sexism.


Solar Farms in Rockbridge?Solar Farms in Rockbridge?

A pro-solar Virginia law makes rural Rockbridge County an attractive location for solar panel arrays where cows now graze. But homeowners around a proposed site are pushing back, and county planning officials are getting the message. The future of utility-scale solar in pastoral Rockbridge may hang on how this skirmish is resolved.

Goshen’s Water ProblemsGoshen’s Water Problems

The little town in the high north corner of Rockbridge County was known for its water. It sits on the headwaters of county’s beautiful Maury River and its mineral springs once drew the wealthy. But its Depression-era water system broke down this year, as it has before, and will again. With few resources and fewer than 400 residents, Goshen is looking for answers and isn’t sure where to look.

Pandemic HomebuyersPandemic Homebuyers

The stress of two years of Covid-19 made many from the D.C. area look for calmer and safer places to live. They were working from home anyway. Since good broadband was now available in most of rural Rockbridge County, many discovered the pleasures of owning a house here. Prices seemed low to them, but they are helping make the area a very hot housing market.

Rockbridge Food Insecurity


Rockbridge Food Insecurity

Poverty rates in Rockbridge County's cities and towns are higher than the national average, and most of the county is defined as a rural food desert. That means people are low income and lack access to affordable and nutritious food. It also means that over one-third of residents live more than 10 miles from the nearest grocery store.