Four Corners Farm

Blog | September 8, 2016

Farmers Fighting Pipelines: Carolyn & Ian Reilly of Four Corners Farm

by Jennie Msall

As farmers in Virginia, Carolyn & Ian Reilly of Four Corners Farm understand how climate change is a particular threat for family farmers. “When you’re working with nature, you notice when nature starts changing,” Carolyn describes. This motivates her work as a community organizer and activist addressing climate change in her own backyard. She’s currently focused on protecting property rights and environmental devastation from a large (42”) proposed pipeline that would run through her family farm. “The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) hopes to put their pipeline through our prized bottom land, where we have the best pasture for our livestock, as well as through two of our creeks – areas where we love to play and recreate as a family.”

Four Corners Farm

Four Corners Farm

The Reilly family, their four kids, moved to Virginia from Florida in late 2010, when Ian left his job in information technology. They were so inspired by the farmers in their Florida community and documentaries about the local food movement that they realized farming was their own life dream. After growing food in their Florida backyard, they were ready to take the plunge. After researching farming communities throughout the southeast, they settled on Virginia. “We were attracted to the history and beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia, plus Roanoke was a great market area.” They bought their 58-acre farm with Carolyn’s parents, and all of them are involved in the farming operation. Together they raise broiler chickens, eggs, pigs and beef cows. Carolyn’s mom helps with the chicken processing, gardening and cows, and her father helps with the finances. Ian cares for the animals and manages rotational grazing. Carolyn has a background in sales and marketing, so she heads that aspect of the operation.

“When you’re working with nature, you notice when nature starts changing.”

Carolyn’s anti-pipeline activism began in 2014 when the family got a letter saying the company wanted to survey their land for a transmission pipeline for a natural gas company. She started doing her own research to learn more about natural gas. Carolyn describes, “I have always been a strong advocate for local food, but then this happened. Fracking and pipelines present a whole new fight for community rights, our land and our environment. Large corporations take advantage of farmers and people in rural communities by bamboozling locals with offers of big money, but money destroys the rights of landowners and the very land they’ve worked hard to have – often family land that has been handed down from generation to generation.” Carolyn works with the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL), a non-profit grassroots organization that helps organize communities who are fighting to protect the environment.  Preserve Franklin, is a chapter of BREDL and is made up of local citizens who have joined together to voice their concerns about the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

The Reilly Family

The Reilly Family

With BREDL, Carolyn works to educate and influence public opinion of the pipeline. Energy companies have big media campaigns promoting natural gas. They promise jobs and economic revitalization. Carolyn is especially concerned about the impact the pipeline would have on family farmers in the area, and like her farming operation, her activism is a family affair. Her parents, husband, and children have all joined in the fight to ensure that their farm, their neighbors’ farms, and their rural community are not destroyed by the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

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