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July 11, 2011

Alliance With Crooked Run Orchard

On Monday, 11-July-2011 the following letter was sent to Mayor Robert Lazaro and the Purcellville Town Council in response to their actions against Sam and Uta Brown, owners of Crooked Run Orchard. Additional background may be found here:


July 11, 2011

Mayor Lazaro, Purcellville Town Council Members:

I am writing to inform you of our alliance with Sam and Uta Brown, owners of Crooked Run Orchard in their efforts to preserve their farm.

For some time now, we have followed with mounting disappointment and ire the news reports of their ongoing battle with the Town of Purcellville. Perhaps, like many others in the community, we held high hopes the issue would somehow "sort itself out" and that the Browns would prevail in their campaign. And perhaps, like many others in the community, we also held high hopes that their rights as citizens, rural business owners, and landowners would be preserved.

We reacted with shock as we learned of the Town's aggressive tactics in removing the injunction preventing the seizure of the Brown's property, and your subsequent acquisition of their land. In our opinion, you have violated a sacred American right, and we find it unconscionable that the Town of Purcellville has engaged in such actions.

Your quick-take was our tipping point, and we have committed ourselves to assisting the Browns in any way possible. In the short time we have known Sam and Uta, we have found them to be intelligent, passionate, honest and wise - stewards of the land with agricultural knowledge far surpassing our own. Such wisdom should be treasured, nurtured and preserved for Loudoun's future generations, not abused like some inconsequential aggravation. It is a grave sign of Purcellville's societal and political priorities that this situation has deteriorated to this point.

Through business collaboration, awareness campaigns, social media, and professional networking, we shall bring every resource at our disposal to their aid. To that end, we have established a Virginia ABC remote license at Crooked Run Orchard and have begun conducting tasting of Notaviva wines on their property each weekend. Our license allows visitors the legal right to enjoy open bottles and glasses of wine as they sit under the trees enjoying the rural vistas, though inevitably the question arises "what are those stakes over there...?" We have very much enjoyed the passionate response from customers as we advise them of the situation, the Town's actions, and the many ways in which they can help. This collaboration has brought Crooked Run into the DC's Wine Country family, and we have begun advertising Crooked Run as a remote Notaviva Vineyards wine tasting facility.

In addition to our remote tasting operation, we will be producing our first fruit wine this month with fresh produce harvested from Crooked Run. We find it hypocritical that the same Town who created the Loudoun Grown Expo is now endangering not one, but two rural small businesses. Our ability to source high quality local produce is paramount to our winery production capabilities and our continued success. Loudoun wineries depend on a reliable network of dedicated suppliers, as our industry growth has far outpaced our ability to quickly establish our own crops to meet demand. Not only will Notaviva Vineyards products be available at Crooked Run, we will begin offering many of their Loudoun grown products, such as fresh produce and Christmas wreaths, in our tasting room. These interdependencies between rural enterprises are critical to the sustainable goals of our Western Loudoun economy, as well as the preservation of our open spaces.

A long-time dedicated servant of community and small business interests, I was recently elected to the Board of the Virginia Wine Council, a Richmond-based organization tasked with furthering the rights of the wine industry. I am President of the Loudoun Wineries Association, and through the LWA we have a direct and open dialogue with both Loudoun Department of Economic Development and Visit Loudoun. I also serve on the Loudoun Economic Development Commission and the Rural Economic Development Council, the EDC Marketing and Business Retention Committee, and we are members of the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce. Though this correspondence does not endeavor to speak on behalf of any of these organizations nor imply their involvement in any way, I have copied each of them so they may be advised of our intentions and commitment to these matters. I will continue to seek their advice and support as we proceed down this path. In addition to the above organizations and legislators, I am also copying local media channels; the complete list of recipients appears below:

Senator Jill Vogel
Delegate Joe May
Loudoun Board of Supervisors
Matt Conrad, Deputy Chief of Staff, Governor McDonnell
Todd Haymore, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry
Patrick Cushing, Director, Virginia Wine Council
Chris Blosser, VP Loudoun Wineries Association
Bree Moore, Secretary Loudoun Wineries Association
Colleen Berg, Treasurer Loudoun Wineries Association
Tony Howard, President & CEO Loudoun Chamber
John Wood, Chair EDC
Kurt Krause, Chair EDC MBRC
Doug Fabbioli, Chair REDC
Tom Flynn, Director Loudoun DED
Kellie Boles, ADO Loudoun DED
Patrick Kaler, CEO Visit Loudoun
Gem Bingol, Piedmont Environmental Council
Washington Post
Loudoun Times
Leesburg Today
Blue Ridge Leader
Purcellville Gazette
Six (6) Virginia Wine Blogs

I implore you to cease your malicious activities and your intent to destroy the Brown's rights, property, crops and business. It is my understanding that the SCR is not funded, not engineered, and mired in lawsuits. Therefore any destruction of the Brown's property under the mantle of quick-take eminent domain may be construed as nothing more than a thinly-veiled pro-development land grab; how could it be perceived otherwise? These activities are a scar on the history of Purcellville, of Loudoun, and of Virginia. It is our understanding you intend to construct a fence to bar the Browns from their property. Should you commence with this initiative, we will organize a benefit concert to raise funds for the Brown's legal defense. This will be held adjacent to "town property" at Crooked Run and will engage a comprehensive social networking and media strategy.

If you feel there is no chance for further negotiations and that the Town's position is firm, then our destiny is aligned with that of Sam and Uta's. However, if there may be any possibility of the Town reconsidering its present course of action, we would gladly donate usage of our facility to bring all parties back to the table to re-establish a constructive dialogue. We do not believe the destruction of Crooked Run Orchards is a foregone conclusion, and will continue to work tirelessly to ensure its future.

I would welcome an opportunity to personally hear your responses to this correspondence; therefore I have a video crew standing by to meet us this Sunday, July 17th at 10 AM at Crooked Run. We are prepared to film you speaking in front of the 25-year old orchard, the 80-year old boxwood hedges, the previously working barn and the wide swath of private property you are intent on destroying. I would like to film you standing in front of the stakes you have placed delineating your unfunded roadway, as well as the stake you placed at the entrance to the Brown's barn. Further, we would like to film you reading aloud the condescending letters and lease offer you have submitted to the Browns. I believe it is critical for the community and our future generations to bear witness to this debacle - if we do not study our history we are doomed to repeat it. Bear in mind every word of your response will be included for release to YouTube, agricultural, environmental and heritage association websites, and any other media channel interested in carrying the piece.

Please reply to all and let us know how many of you will attend the video shoot so we may plan accordingly. We look forward to filming you this Sunday at 10 AM.


Stephen Mackey
Co-Founder, CEO and President

Notaviva Vineyards, LLC
13274 Sagle Road
Purcellville, VA 20132

Posted by Stephen at July 11, 2011 6:25 PM