From the Editor’s Desk: What should the future of Farmville be?

Published 6:24 am Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Aldi said no. It wasn’t a maybe. It wasn’t a ‘we’ll see’ or ‘I’ll let you know’. When asked if they would be interested in moving to Farmville, the big grocery store chain made their mindset very clear. Farmville isn’t big enough, they said. This is an important point, leading to some bigger questions. How bad do you want more restaurants, more shops and more companies, bringing in more jobs? Are you willing to support a push to bring in more residents? Or do you just want things to stay the way they are? Just what should the future of Farmville be?

Since I’ve been here, The Herald has received a laundry list of requests, things people want to see in town. It ranges from different restaurants to big box stores like Best Buy and Home Depot. They want more grocery store options, more stores beyond the downtown area. But as my grandfather used to say, it’s nice to want things. Now what are you going to do to make that want a reality? 

The map forward is pretty clear. As we’ve reported before, companies will not move to small towns like Farmville unless they see population numbers trending up. And the population here is not trending up. Even with the Longwood students that it seems the U.S. Census somehow completely missed, Farmville and Prince Edward County are stagnant at best. That’s not a great indicator for the future of Farmville. 

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Big companies will not move into areas like that. It doesn’t matter what you offer them, they’re not coming. They’re looking not just now, but five, 10 years down the road. If the population isn’t growing, what happens when the current residents pass on or move away? Right now, we can’t stand here and guarantee that big box stores would have enough customers to turn the type of profit they want. 

That’s why Farmville’s Town Manager Dr. Scott Davis and his staff are pushing for the planned unit development ordinance to go through. Based on information from the last two town council and planning commission meetings, five developers have reached out, asking about building types of homes not currently allowed in Farmville’s ordinances. Now in the last four days, I’ve heard every kind of fear possible involving that. Some residents are afraid of more traffic. Others are scared more residents will mean higher prices at the store. A handful have emailed about their fear that any change will automatically set Farmville on a path to become Northern Virginia. Let me be clear: there’s a massive difference between Farmville’s 8,200+ residents and Alexandria’s 159,000+ residents. Even if Farmville grew at a steady rate every year from now until 2050, you wouldn’t see that kind of change. 

And I get it. Change is scary. There’s a comfort in the familiar, in things staying the way you’re used to them. But in order to get those things residents keep telling us they want, change has to come. We need to grow as a town, we need to bring in new people. Without that, Harris Teeter and Ingles will stay away, Marshall’s won’t be knocking down the door. So again, it all comes down to a question. You say you want all of these companies to move in. What are you willing to do to make that happen? What should the future of Farmville be?