Nary has a study of Valley residents and visitors failed to mention the bucolic charm of this area's rural character. Likewise, The Valley and Vermont's working landscape, i.e., our active farms and farm fields, receive similar praise from residents, planners and visitors.

Aesthetically, there seems to be consensus that open fields, historic settlement patterns and plenty of farm fields need to be preserved.

But that aesthetic sensibility has deeper roots than just our view shed. For many reasons, it behooves us to take a very careful inventory of our existing agricultural land and do what we can to preserve/conserve and maintain it.

Technological advances are occurring every day, but not fast enough to avoid mankind's depletion of non-renewable earth resources. Regardless of what one might think of the veracity of global warming, we are absolutely going to use up the world's supplies of oil in the coming decades.

Technological advances notwithstanding, there will come some lean and hungry years when oil and the gas we use to drive, transport goods, etc. skyrocket beyond today's prices. When that happens, our visually pleasing farm fields will take on a value far more critical than the aesthetic value.

As responsible citizens in forward-thinking towns, we have zoning ordinances aimed at the preservation of prime ag land. We have regulatory boards that regularly make decisions with the preservation of farm land as a primary goal. We have work-plans that call for identifying appropriate places for residential development, hamlets of growth which do not infringe on our agricultural fields. We strive to channel diverse growth into our villages so that it does not sprawl all over our hillsides.

We need to continue and improve our efforts in this regard. Our ability to sustain and feed ourselves depends on it. That's just one plank of the Localvore platform, a movement which challenges people to eat local food for one week.

The challenge is eye-opening, and the philosophy behind it is mind-opening. We may not always be able to buy February strawberries from California and oranges from Florida. Our current carbon footprint is not sustainable and reducing it will require eating locally. And that hinges completely on preserving our rural vision.