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.
Lexington, Buena Vista and Rockbridge County duplicate services for less than 40,000 people who live in a 610-square mile area. Sometimes, the three governments get along. Sometimes, they don't. But there's always a cost.
The Jordan's Point Dam on the Maury River once symbolized Lexington's historic past, but it also threatened the city's financial future. The state forced the issue, demanding that the city decide whether to repair the deteriorating dam—or remove it. The debate splintered the community.
In Virginia, people are continuing to jump into the brewing business because they believe it's easy, exciting and profitable. But there are challenges facing veteran and novice brewers, including a small and hard-to-please consumer base, deceptively long hours and complex state regulations.
Nearly 30 percent of residents in Rockbridge County are over 65, according to the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia. By 2030, that number is expected to reach 34 percent. Retirees face challenges in finding quality health care. They struggle to go where they want on their own. And they are limited in where they can live by their physical needs and what they can afford.
Over the past four decades, elected officials and business owners boasted that they were going to save Buena Vista, the eighth-most fiscally stressed locality in Virginia, according to the state's Commission on Local Government. But disasters, both natural and man-made, have driven industries and businesses away. A developer is giving BV hope, again.
Living in Lexington and Rockbridge County is expensive, and there is a shortage of affordable housing. The median value of an owner-occupied home is $252,500 in Lexington and $197,200 in Rockbridge County. But the median household income is $37,309 in Lexington and $53,918 in the county. Rent isn't cheap either. The median gross rent is $785 per month, according to the Census Bureau.
Young farmers face numerous obstacles in making their dreams come true. Land available for sale or lease is scarce in Rockbridge County. It's also expensive. Once farmers acquire land, they must deal with financial hurdles in securing funding for equipment, animals, feed and the technology required to run a successful farm. Aspiring farmers also must wait to get their starts because older, more established farmers aren't ready to relinquish control.
All refugees are immigrants, but not all immigrants are refugees. The United Nations defines refugees as people with a "well-founded fear" that they will face religious, ethnic, racial or social persecution should they return to their home countries. Two agencies serve the Shenandoah Valley, helping refugees resettle and make new lives for themselves, mainly in Harrisonburg and Roanoke.