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Frequently asked questions

  • What are your hours of operation?
    Our gates are open daily from 10 AM to 4 PM. You're welcome to take a self-guided tour within those hours, or schedule a tour with Stephanie using our booking tool.
  • How do I reserve a space?
    To reserve a space, you can call Stephanie at (434) 424-1103 and schedule a time to come out and choose a site. Then stop by the office to sign a simple one-page contract to complete the process.
  • What are your criteria for green burial?
    No toxic embalming chemicals may be used. Bodies return to the earth in biodegradable boxes or burial shrouds. The idea is that we are only introducing materials that nature can use to nurture new life.
  • How big is the cemetery?
    The cemetery is 20 acres, and we're initially working with two acres. The cemetery is located on the north side of Panorama Farms' contiguous 800+ acres.
  • Do I have to work with a funeral home?
    No. Virginia allows for families to handle the entire funeral and burial process independently. The first step is for you to decide what you are comfortable with and go from there. Contact Stephanie and she can walk you through some options/ideas.
  • How much notice do you need for a burial?
    We ask for 48 hours notice. Please note, this does not mean that the burial must take place within 48 hours, but rather that the soonest it can take place is 48 hours after notification. There is no limit to how long after death a burial can take place, so there will always be plenty of time to get folks in from out of town or hold a vigil, etc.
  • Why are your graves renewable after 75 years?
    Science tells us that 20 to 30 years after a “natural” burial, bodies return to the soil with nothing remaining. In an effort to keep the cemetery from continually expanding outward, we are encouraging people to recycle their spaces in 75 years. At that point, consistent with the principles of natural burial, the space will be recycled, thereby allowing for the interment of other individuals. If a memorial stone is present at the time of renewal, it will be placed in a memorial wall at the Cemetery.
  • Can I have a memorial on my grave?
    Yes, but you don’t have to. We allow simple river rocks with name, birth and death years. All stones will have the same font and be set flush to the ground. No upright headstones. We have river rocks for sale and can complete all the work for you, but you are free to work with an outside contractor (although everything is subject to PNB approval). If you have a memorial and choose to allow for grave reuse, when the time comes, your stone will go into a memorial rock wall on the cemetery property.
  • Can I plant a tree or flowers?
    We encourage you to plant flowers that are native to the area. Planting trees requires careful planning, so we ask that you refrain from doing that on your own at this point. It is possible to plant trees away from the gravesites, but again, we need to carefully plan for this.
  • How deep are your graves?
    3.5 feet. At this depth, the soil is more nutrient rich and organisms are better at doing their jobs.
  • Will animals dig me up?
    No. The farthest that predatory animals dig down into soil is 12”. Organisms at that level and below actually mask the odor of decomposition, so animals cannot detect it. There has never been a case of green burial resulting in something like this.
  • Is this human composting?
    Human composting is not yet legal in Virginia. Human composting is the breakdown of a human body for the purpose of reuse by humans. Human composting requires a very carefully controlled environment and the use of several resources to ensure a very specific desired outcome. While we are allowing for the body to be reused by nature, we are not involved in the human composting process.
  • What does "interment fee" mean?
    This fee helps pay the on-call contracting service that digs for us on short notice. They assist in staging the gravesite and also come back to clean up the area after a service.
  • Can you explain the difference in pricing?
    Our pricing tiers depend on which burial section you choose from. The more expensive lots are due to a more limited amount of space.
  • Do you accept cremated remains?
    Yes, cremated remains can be buried in spaces half the size of regular lots, the cost is exactly half for those spaces.
  • How is a green cemetery different from a traditional cemetery?
    Green cemeteries don't look like traditional cemeteries because visitors don't see any marble headstones or large monuments when they enter. Instead, graves are marked with naturally-sourced materials like engraved river stones and wildflowers, as well as 21st-century materials like digital memorials. Green cemeteries are more like sacred parks, where people come to remember their loved ones amidst natural, restorative beauty.
  • What is a green burial?
    Green burials are a form of natural deathcare. When someone chooses a green burial, their remains are returned to the earth to help create new life. Bodies are wrapped in a simple shroud or contained in a biodegradable casket. Green burials are an earth-friendly alternative to metal caskets, concrete vaults, and embalming chemicals. Green burial is a way of honoring a unique human being without introducing toxins to the soil, contributing to carbon emissions, or impacting the health of funeral workers. It’s a choice to minimize any negative environmental impact one might have after death. Not only are these sustainable practices better for the environment, but they’re more faithful to how humans across the world have been caring for their dead for tens of thousands of years, before the advent of modern funeral rites.
  • Is Panorama a conservation burial ground?
    We are 1 of only 12 cemeteries in the country to be a member of the Conservation Burial Alliance, which aims to keep nature undeveloped through conservation land trusts. The Murray family has been deeply committed to preserving Panorama Farms as open space and wildlife habitat. We have a history of supporting that mission through innovative, environmental businesses that contribute not only to nature, but to the community at-large.
  • Are you certified by the Green Burial Council?
    Panorama complies with the guidelines set forth by the Green Burial Council.
  • Where can I read more about green burial?
    If you want to read more about the benefits of green burial, you can check out the links below: 1. To help Earth’s future, people are getting buried like it’s 1860 This 2023 Washington Post article profiles people who chose green burial: "The concept 'just called to me,' Berg said. 'I mean, what else could you possibly want as your last act on earth — enhancing the environment rather than impacting it in a negative way?'" 2. Thinking about having a ‘green’ funeral? Here’s what to know This 2018 New York Times article offers an overview of the growing green burial movement: "For many people who opt for a green burial, it can come down to cost, environmental impact and legacy." 3. A burial practice that nourishes the planet This 2016 TED Talk from Caitlin Doughty, founder of The Order of the Good Death and the Death Positive movement, inspires people to look beyond traditional burial and cremation options: "Now, if this system of beautification, sanitation, protection doesn't appeal to you, you are not alone. There is a whole wave of people - funeral directors, designers, environmentalists - trying to come up with a more eco-friendly way of death. For these people, death is not necessarily a pristine, makeup, powder-blue tuxedo kind of affair." 4. Eco-friendly cemeteries? More people preferring 'green' over standard burials This 2019 Washington Post article covers how green cemetery operators are overcoming considerable regulatory obstacles to provide valuable, eco-friendly options to consumers: "Advocates say their movement is long overdue. According to the California-based Green Burial Council, cemeteries in the United States put more than 4 million gallons of embalming fluid and 64,000 tons of steel into the ground each year, along with 1.6 million tons of concrete." 5. Green burial wants to clean up American funerals This 2021 article covers the many spiritual and ecological benefits of green burial through the story of Basil Eldadah and Haroon Mokhtarzada, who co-founded Reflection Park in Silver Spring, MD: "He asked, “Why does a hole in the ground cost $10,000?” The same use of embalming fluid, concrete, and hardwood that make death so polluting also make it expensive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, funeral costs jumped 225 percent since 1986; GoFundMe hosted 125,000 memorial campaigns in 2020. Funeral poverty is an underreported crisis in America." 6. Green burials can change our relationship with death--and help the earth This 2021 Washington Post story by Mallory McDuff, an environmental educator and author of Our Last Best Act, gives a first-person account of a green burial service: "My request to volunteer [at Carolina Memorial Sanctuary] was just one step in a year of research to explore options such as water cremation, home funerals, end-of-life doulas, green burial, human composting and even body farms, where I could donate my body for the study of decomposition. At each stop on my journey, I learned about better ways to calibrate our inevitable deaths with the needs of our planet. But in volunteering at the conservation cemetery that summer, I also saw firsthand how our deaths can help restore the Earth and our connection to the land." 7. In these cemeteries, nature also rests in peace This 2022 National Geographic cover story positions conservation burial grounds as the antidote to more subdivisions: "Conservation cemeteries serve as a space for green burials, a tool to preserve land naturally, and a deterrent to runaway development." 8. What's a natural burial? A Christian theologian explains In this 2022 Q&A from The Conversation, Beth Hoeltke offers a Christian perspective on natural burial. Note: Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faiths all have time-honored natural burial traditions. 9. Green burial 101 This green burial overview from The Order of the Good Death gives somewhat cheeky, but highly informative answers to questions about the safety of natural burial and “becoming trees” when you die: "With no intervention, the human body decomposes after death. Yet for over a century, modern funeral practices have attempted to slow decomposition and lock the nutrients a body can provide into metal and concrete boxes below ground. Choosing to forego the expensive interventions of the funeral industry is humanity’s attempt to re-identify with the natural world and view our bodies as biomass and organic material." 10. Films about green burial Two documentary films, A Will for the Woods and Bury Me at Taylor Hollow (2022), show viewers how deeply personal and transformative green burial can be. A Will for the Woods chronicles musician and psychiatrist Clark Wang’s funeral preparations, and Bury Me at Taylor Hollow chronicles the origin story of Larkspur Conservation through the eyes of its executive director John Christian Phifer. 11. Saving the environment--and cash--through green burials This 2022 WebMD article offers a brief overview of the benefits of a return-to-nature approach to death care: “'He is helping the environment grow more. I find it so peaceful, I'm out there all the time,' said Judy, 69. 'I take fresh cranberries, shelled peanuts and sprinkle them on his plot so that all the animals from the forest can come visit him.'" 12. The stunning rise of cremation reveals America's changing idea of death This 2022 Washington Post article explores whether so many people choose cremation because they don’t know about the existence of green, purposeful cremation alternatives: “'The stunning increase in cremation is the single greatest change in our funeral practices in our generation or, I’d venture to say, in the last couple of centuries,' says Thomas Lynch, a Michigan poet and funeral director of 50 years. 'People want the body disappeared, pretty much. I think it reminds us of what we lost.' In the United States, Lynch notes, 'this is the first generation of our species that tries to deal with death without dealing with the dead.'”
  • Why did the Murray family decide to open a green cemetery?
    Chris Murray, our founding director, became interested in natural death care after the loss of his brother Latham in 2009. He has used his personal experiences, his work at the Jefferson Area Board of Aging (JABA), his environmentalism, and his warm spirit to lead the green burial project from its very first stages. Chris's parents were Jim and Jean “Bunny” Murray, who established Panorama Farms in 1953. They committed their lives to their family, to environmental sustainability, to social progress, and to the preservation of Panorama Farms. They both chose to have green burials at the family cemetery near their forever home. The Murray family wants to give everyone an opportunity to share their experience.
  • Will the Murrays run Panorama Natural Burial?
    The Murray family owns and helps operate the green cemetery, but Stephanie Bonney, an experienced cemetery professional, manages day-to-day operations.
  • Will other independent, green businesses on the farm impact Panorama Natural Burial?
    No. The official cross country races hosted by Panorama Running and the organic compost operations of Panorama Paydirt won't impact Panorama Natural Burial. Our green cemetery is located in an area of woods and grassland on the far side of the farm, at 3550 Reas Ford Lane, Earlysville, VA, near the former event barn for Panorama Events. Cemetery access will be exclusively from Reas Ford Lane, not Panorama Road off Route 743.
  • Is the cemetery land protected by conservation easement?
    There is no official conservation easement yet, due to a few reasons, the main one being that the intention is to put a larger portion of the property into conservation in later years and splitting the property up with various easements greatly complicates that process. In Virginia, once a cemetery, always a cemetery. 10% of each lot sale goes into a perpetual care fund overseen by the Commonwealth. Should anything happen, the cemetery will be cared for by the Commonwealth of Virginia into perpetuity.
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