Viroqua Cemetery Association president Gail Frie, right, talks with resident Kathy Doerfer Sept. 9 in Viroqua. The cemetery association recently approved a plan to reserve the lot pictured for green burials, which do not use conventional burial methods and are considered better for the environment.
Viroqua Cemetery Association president Gail Frie, right, talks with resident Kathy Doerfer Sept. 9 in Viroqua. The cemetery association recently approved a plan to reserve the lot pictured for green burials, which do not use conventional burial methods and are considered better for the environment.

VIROQUA – When Gail Frie moved to Viroqua in the 1990s, he noticed a divide in the small western Wisconsin city between older residents, many of them farmers, and younger progressives who’d come there seeking a quieter life. 

It’s not an uncommon split, especially in more rural areas. But in time, Frie noticed the relationship improving — bolstered by a shared value of the land and a desire to protect it. 

Those shared values, Frie suspects, are what has generated across-the-board excitement about a new venture for the local cemetery: green burial. 

In August, the Viroqua Cemetery Association voted to approve reserving a portion of their cemetery, which has been around since the mid-1800s, for green burials.

Green burial, sometimes called natural burial, removes embalming chemicals and large concrete and metal vaults from the burial process. Instead, the person is buried in a biodegradable casket or shroud. Graves are dug shallower, so that the body rests within aerobic soil and can decompose easily. The land the plots are on is often given special care to preserve its natural habitat. 

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