Producer Spotlight: AR's Hot Southern Honey

When you combine spicy peppers with honey, you get a tasty treat with endless possibilities! Ames Russell used to mix hot sauce with his honey to put on homemade meals like fried chicken. His wife teased him about his messy concoctions and asked him to find a way to put it together in one simple bottle. He set out to do just that and started by researching a wide variety of honeys and peppers. He found just the right combination in a blend of clover and wildflower honey with the ever-popular de Arbol red chili pepper!

It was a hit at home with his family, as well as relatives and friends who received bottles at Christmas time. When holiday supplies ran out and the pleading continued to roll in, Ames developed AR’s Hot Southern Honey! He had a long career of successful entrepreneurial endeavors in the sporting goods field as well as I.T. work, but he wanted to pursue something that would tap into his current passions and creative side. He put his full focus into his products and now customers are enjoying them across 25+ states!

What makes his hot honey products so irresistible to so many? Ames describes it this way: “Honey has ageless appeal and is a healthier way to sweeten foods. My product has all the trending tastes of spiciness, southern cuisine, and honey.” Ames recalls one of his first promotional events when at the end of the long day, one last visitor remarked that it was the best thing she’d tasted all day. After four years he still maintains his genuine enthusiasm, stating, “I love seeing the unexpected delight on people’s faces when they try my products!”

Recently Ames expanded his product line to include a peach hot sauce, a unique spicy honey peanut butter and a bourbon barrel aged hot-hot honey produced through a partnership with Ironclad Distillery! In response to repeated requests for a honey with even more punch, he began using habanero peppers in his hot-hot honey and has received rave reviews!

He appreciates the farmers market venue and how the community is always excited to sample his products and share their positive feedback and recipe ideas. Customers love to use his versatile hot honey as a glaze on seafood, meats and roasted veggies. They use it in a morning latte and an evening toddy. It doesn’t get much better than drizzling it on warm cornbread and even ice cream! Ames adds, “I guarantee my hot honey will rock your ham biscuit!” The AR's Hot Southern Honey website is full of recipes for his products including grilled peaches with honey ricotta, slow cooker honey lime ginger pork, grilled honey glazed salmon, and honey lime shrimp tacos!

See why AR’s Hot Southern Honey won the 2019 Richmond Magazine’s Elby Award for “Best Local Product-that local food or beverage the rest of the nation should know about” and why Virginia Living Magazine honored Ames with a “Made in Virginia 2018 Food Award.” Time to spice up your honey, add zing and interest to your meals and drinks, and try out some new products and recipes!

Published: 07/31/2020

Producer Spotlight: Wild Earth Fermentation

When you meet Grant Collier, it’s immediately clear he is passionate about fermenting foods. It’s a perfect fit for him as he can simultaneously support the livelihoods of local farmers and the health of his community. His own personal health journey led to the development of Wild Earth Fermentation in 2015.

Upon graduating from college, Grant found himself experiencing poor gut health. Turning towards natural ways to deal with discomfort, Grant discovered the benefits of fermented foods to be beneficial to both his mind and body. He learned these foods are a strong boost and tool in a comprehensive approach to wellness. He states, “You have to cultivate a healthy environment for good bacteria to thrive.” Growing up, he ate healthily but fermented foods were never introduced to him at the dinner table. Therefore, he had to seek them out and learn how to make them on his own.

Grant describes the progression of his passion by stating, “Interest quickly turned to obsession upon learning how tasty, fun and satisfying it can be to add fermented foods to meals. They can provide freshness, acidity, and crunch!” In establishing Wild Earth Fermentation, Grant ensured their product line provides something for everyone, including a diverse variety of hot sauces, pickles, sauerkrauts, chow-chow, and kimchi! Right now they are working hard to deliver products full of seasonal produce grown in central Virginia.

For Grant, this endeavor is all about agriculture and small-scale farming remarking, “It’s the hardest and most important job I can think of. This is our way to contribute and be a part of the local food system.” They use local, naturally grown produce in their fermentations. Doug and Judy of Dragonfly Farm in Cumberland County have had a long-lasting production relationship and provide cabbage, bok choy, and hot peppers to Wild Earth. Grant and his wife Bri help to harvest at the farm when they can, adding to their knowledge of agriculture. John Bryant of Old Tavern Farm represents another growing partnership supplying such produce as cabbage, cucumbers, dill, and other veggies for kimchi.

In the past couple of years, Grant and Bri have begun using vegetables and herbs grown at their home in the Fulton neighborhood of Richmond. You can feel good knowing the produce they use in their fermented products is from sustainably-minded local farmers and even some vegetables from their own backyard!

Customers frequently return to the markets to report they can feel a difference in energy level, GI tract functioning, and even concentration abilities when they eat these foods on a regular basis. It’s an especially critical time to seek nourishment from our community of growers and Wild Earth Fermentation wants to help foster that relationship!

Published: 07/24/2020

Producer Spotlight: delli Carpini Farm

The way food is grown impacts its quality, taste, and nutrition. This is what drives Dominic Carpin’s farming, as well as an innate respect and admiration for the land in which he grows his diverse bounty of veggies, fruits, and herbs.

In his early twenties, he had no way of knowing that his small Oregon Hill backyard garden he shared with his roommates would one day lead to a thriving 12 acre farm. Back then, Rodale’s Organic Gardening Encyclopedia and Elliot Coleman’s books served as initial educational resources. He gained additional experience by working in the Garden Center of the Great Big Greenhouse and did some landscaping work for them on the side.

He gratefully connected with multiple mentors through the years, including the staff of Great Big Greenhouse and later, Southside Nursery. He learned from books and seminars from farming experts like Jean Martin Fortier, Masanobu Fukuoka, and Pam Dawling. He eventually opened up a rare plant nursery in Bon Air while gaining farming experience by growing vegetables on numerous friends’ properties.

Upon starting a family, he left the farming field to work for about fifteen years at a number of large banking corporations. While he didn’t prefer working indoors at a desk, it provided financial stability and benefits that were critical to family life. The year 2014 marked a turning point. His three boys were grown, he had divorced, and he was laid off for the third time in his corporate career. This challenging time inspired him to return to his calling, but on a larger scale.

Dominic now farms on 12 acres and describes his farming practices by stating, “I plant by the moon and use the almanac religiously. I think having the lowest impact on the land leads to the most nutrition.” At delli Carpini Farm, he avoids using plastic and relies on a gravity-fed irrigation system. With no high tunnels, he grows seasonally and promotes the health benefits of eating with the seasons. He has implemented regenerative practices like cover cropping and no-till to support the soil microbiome. He’s intentional in his efforts to attract beneficial insects, devoting 10% of the farmland to meadows. He never uses pesticides or herbicides, relying on OMRI listed organic certified inputs to improve the soil and combat pests or disease. All of his seeds are GMO free and most are open-pollinated heirlooms.

When asked about his favorite crops to grow, the list quickly became lengthy! Dominic loves everything in the onion family, as well as red and blue potatoes, super-food purple sweet potatoes, mustard greens, carrots, and a variety of peas and beans. He likes Italian varieties of zucchini, squash, and tomatoes. He enjoys introducing customers to produce they’ve never tried before like Jerusalem artichokes, mustard flowers, broccolini, upland cress, and fava beans. He set aside growing space for what he affectionately calls his apothecary garden, where he grows herbs with diverse uses like wormwood, tansy, anise, hyssop, and nettles.

The trial and error aspect of farming appeals to Dominic, as he is always trying new growing strategies and crops. He also loves foraging among the plants that grow wild at his farm like elderberries and blackberries. Dominic prioritizes the health of his soil and plants, which translates into great tasting, healthy, naturally grown food for customers. Add his diverse summer offerings to your cart! The Best of the Farm Vegetable Box is a great way to experience a little taste of delli Carpini Farm!

Published: 07/21/2020

Producer Spotlight: Chelsea Knoll

During this hectic time of uncertainty, it’s good to take time for yourself and listen to the needs of your mind and body. Ben and Eunice Clark of Chelsea Knoll aspire to support you in this quest with their Glow Holistic products!

A few years ago, Ben was juggling demanding shift work with parenting two young children with his wife. He battled frequent migraines. Prescription medication helped to a certain extent but he never felt comfortable with the idea. Ben was introduced to CBD through cannabis farming friends of the family in North Carolina. He recalls, “I didn’t realize I could get relief from a plant versus a doctor. The CBD took the headaches away.” The personal benefits he derived and the farming lifestyle inspired the couple to help others.

Ben and Eunice set off to learn all they could through visits to other cannabis farms, reading and research, and good ol’ trial and error. By May of 2018 they established an effective farming system and launched their first Glow Holistic CBD products. They pride themselves on their respect of the land and their plants, which leads to a high quality product to customers. They keep their plants healthy through a no-till, cover crop system that impressively relies on their own homemade compost. They grow on 1.5 acres outside and within two large heated high tunnels.

They knew it was a priority to reach customers through farmers markets. Ben described their love of this venue by stating, “Farmers markets are great for connecting buyers with producers. It’s an intimate experience really, as we love talking to customers, answering their questions, and holding their hands in the process of learning more about CBD.” A good portion of their customers have never tried any type of CBD product. They enjoy introducing the potential benefits and dispelling common myths. They often bring a cannabis plant along to market to facilitate these conversations.

In addition to farmers markets, Ben and Eunice sell their products throughout their community in pharmacies, cafes, salons, and natural whole food stores. The positive feedback they receive from customers makes it all worthwhile. It additionally reinforces their decision to shift gears in their careers. Ben left the grinding shift work and thrives on working outside, connecting with customers, and growing a product for them that he believes in. Eunice has a long history of teaching in private schools in Williamsburg and recently reduced her teaching hours within the Math Department of CNU. She is somehow completing her second Masters Degree in Data Sciences (following her first in Mathematics) while operating Chelsea Knoll Farm. Her strengths in Math, Education, and Marketing certainly serve them well as business owners!

Customers report therapeutic benefits from carving out time for baths with Glow Bath Bombs and Glow Goats Milk Soap with calming scents like lavender and cinnamon. These relaxation-promoting products contain hemp extract, coconut oil, and Vitamin E. Their Glow Healing Cream and Roll On incorporate soothing eucalyptus, wintergreen, and cypress oils along with hemp extract. Their ingestible CBD products include gummies, tinctures and even dog supplements. Customers using their topical and edible products report a variety of benefits such as a decrease in stress and anxiety, improved sleep, and pain relief. Ben and Eunice are happy to field any of your questions and they encourage you to carve out some “me time” to experience the benefits of Glow Holistic products for yourself!

Published: 07/10/2020

Producer Spotlight: ShireFolk Farm

Emilie and Logan Tweardy are committed to growing healthy food for their community and respecting their land and animals in the process. It was quite an adventure of self-discovery, formal education, and hands-on experience to reach their ultimate destination of owning their own farm. After attending college with a focus on Natural Resource Management and environmental education, they pursued work in a variety of helping professions. Ultimately, they were drawn to their shared love for food and a true calling to have a positive impact on their community.

Farming was an effortless decision but an effortful undertaking! Emilie describes the farming field as “approachable and a good place to help others establish good habits.” Their approach to raising animals and growing food was shaped and clarified by devoting time to working on other farms and a tremendous amount of research. They found that learning what not to do was often the most valuable lesson.

In 2015 they made the big decision to purchase farmland and by 2016 ShireFolk Farm began serving the community! The name was inspired by Tolkien’s depiction of the hobbits’ simple self-sufficient life in the Shire, a refuge of peace and quiet. That’s the environment they value for themselves and their animals. They prioritize the health and quality of life of their poultry by rotating them to fresh pasture. They also have pasture-raised lamb and turkey available in the Fall. All of their eggs, meat and produce are GMO free.

Somehow this hard-working family, now with a three year old and another on the way, additionally grow Certified Naturally Grown produce and mushrooms! Emilie and Logan appreciate the grassroots model of this certification in which farmers certify other farmers and the standards are high. Emilie also teaches Permaculture through the Shenandoah Permaculture Institute and provides consultations to other landowners, homesteaders, and farmers. When asked to describe Permaculture, she stated “Nature serves as a model to help us create more resilient systems. It helps you to be a part of the landscape. It has inspired us to think more critically before making changes and has helped us deviate from an instant gratification culture.”

This inspiring couple clearly takes pride in the work they do with Emilie describing it this way: “I am brimming over with gratitude for my lifestyle of learning, loving, and living the good life.” The holidays serve as a special time of thankfulness. They have to ensure the turkeys they spent so much time nurturing and raising are delivered on time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Emilie recalled last year’s holiday season by stating, “It makes me reflect on how our little dream of a farm became a reality and that thousands of people are enjoying our food that day. We can be a part of their holiday celebration.”

Customers tend to linger at the Shirefolk booth at farmers markets because Emilie and Logan know a lot about cooking! They are always sharing recipes and ideas for cooking simple, delicious meals. Visit the ShireFolk Farm website and search for them on the RVAg online marketplace. You can get both your healthy sources of protein and produce from this local farming family who truly value your health and sustainable agriculture practices!

Published: 07/03/2020

Producer Spotlight: Two Labs Coffee

Cat Gardner had two compelling reasons to start her coffee business. In her 20 years of service as a paramedic she frequently found herself drinking poor quality old coffee from convenient stores. She aspired to produce a higher quality coffee for her community that would also enable her to meaningfully pursue her giving spirit.

As a regular at her local farmers market, she connected with a local coffee vendor who was happy to serve as her mentor. She volunteered to help him roast and delved into intensive research to learn all she could about the roasting process and coffee business. In the Spring of 2018, she made the big commitment to purchase her own roaster. Through an entrepreneurial workshop she connected with the co-op Catracha Coffee. It was the perfect fit! The partnership enabled her to support a group of small farms in Honduras who in turn helped her provide high quality coffee to her community and engage in local fundraising!

In the Summer of 2018 she officially started Two Labs Coffee, which she named after her two beloved rescue labs. She has consistently prioritized giving back to her community and generously donates a percentage of sales to a number of worthy causes including the Fluvanna SPCA and the Palmyra Volunteer Fire Department. Most recently she developed a specialty blend for a successful fundraiser for the band of her alma mater, Freeman High School. She has even supported the children of farmers in Honduras by featuring their artwork on her coffee bags!

She now enjoys unwinding at the end of her workday as a high school EMT Instructor with music and the calming, inviting aromas of roasting. Using her manual roaster really is an art that requires focused attention. She points out that in larger coffee producers’ quest for consistency, they sacrifice taste and uniqueness. She adds, “The reason to go local and small is that the coffee is roasted properly and more recently. Fresh coffee makes a huge difference.”

Cat attentively listens to customers’ preferences to match them with the best blend, which can vary extensively based upon the region where the beans are grown and how they are roasted. She clearly loves what she does, remarking, “It makes me happy to bring high quality, small batch specialty coffee to the every day person. I love that I can use what I produce to give back to the community.” Whether you like your coffee bold, smooth, nutty, with a touch of spice or notes of cocoa or fruit…she’s got it! Try a few blends through her one-pot sampler four pack!

She enjoys experimenting with new blends and always welcomes feedback. Visit her at the Manakin Market where you can try her latest creation. You can also pick up some of her delicious chocolate bars that incorporate her coffee like Gingerbread Latte, Hazelnut Milk Chocolate, and Mardi Gras Dark Chocolate!

Published: 06/26/2020

Producer Spotlight: Scuffletown Sweets

Terri Miller loves the joy her sugar cookies bring to the community, especially young children. She also loves everything about farmers markets! Her initial interest can be traced back 30 years ago when she and her family resided in Germany. She recalls the positive communal spirit and the generosity and kindness of the vendors. After returning to the states, she stayed busy with her catering career but the desire to take an active part in the farmers market venue never left her.

Upon retiring and becoming empty-nesters, Terri and her husband moved from snowy South Dakota to Richmond, Virginia. It was 2016 when they settled into life in the Fan near Scuffletown Park, which Terri describes as a sweet, relaxing hidden gem of a park that is great for reading and enjoying the community garden. She casually continued to pursue her love of making desserts and baked her son’s favorite sugar cookies for his wedding. The rave reviews from guests sparked a journey into learning all she could about decorating her cookies with an ultimate goal of being a vendor in local farmers markets.

Terri recalls a snowy day in December of 2018 when she baked ALL day and committed to four close friends that she would start her own business. In a matter of months she created Scuffletown Sweets, a name inspired by her local refuge in the Fan. Word quickly spread about Terri’s sugar cookies and soon people were enjoying them at all sorts of community events and special family gatherings. Her goal to participate in farmers markets became a reality in 2019 and she now sells at numerous markets in Richmond and surrounding areas. “The farmers markets make it all worthwhile. I truly enjoy ALL aspects of the process from baking to selling!”

Two of Terri’s favorite products are her paint-your own cookie kits and her more classic cookie decorating kits. Terri describes it as a fun “boredom buster” activity for families and they’ve been a hit across all ages! She misses her interaction with the kids at markets and parties and is looking forward to helping them delight in the creative process again soon!

She enjoys celebrating the changing seasons, holidays, and special events with the community through her cookie themes. She has the perfect gifts for all occasions! Grads will enjoy tasty cookie treats of their caps and gowns in their school colors. Be sure to check out her sunflower cookie platter and 4th of July treats. She can also be contacted for special orders. See why customers consistently say, “They taste as good as they look!”

Published: 06/23/2020

Producer Spotlight: SoulSmith Kombucha

Nani Smith has been eating kombucha and fermented foods her whole life. She grew up in South Korea and immigrated to California with her family about forty years ago. She learned much of what she knows about making these health-promoting natural foods from her mother. Upon the growing demand for her fermented products and encouragement from her friends and clients, she started SoulSmith Kombucha in 2018.

Sharing kombucha and kimchi was the natural next step in Nani’s journey to holistically improve the health of her community. She has taught yoga and meditation for almost 30 years and possesses a second degree black belt in Taekwondo. She has countless followers who find her teaching and lifestyle inspiring and transforming. Nani reminds her clients, “There are no shortcuts or quick fixes to our health. It’s a lifelong process that involves taking care of ourselves daily. Eating natural healthy food changes your body and mind.” Some local gyms even carry SoulSmith kombucha because they see it as a perfect complement to their health and wellness services.

Nani trusts the ancient wisdom and well-documented health benefits associated with the probiotics in fermented beverages and foods. She’s frustrated by the prevalent use of preservatives and synthetic chemicals in so many foods. She believes her kombucha and kimchi can help users re-balance their lives, naturally boost their mental and physical health and especially improve their gut health.

Positive feedback keeps rolling in from her clients including many reporting relief from long-standing gastrointestinal problems. One described her experience by stating, “One sip, and it was energy giving! We have to have SoulSmith every week. It is made with love locally and you can taste it!” Others have reported a decrease in cravings and improved weight loss upon adding kombucha to their healthy lifestyle. It’s a great nutritious alternative to soda as it provides a little fizz with a natural sweetness.

The red ginseng kombucha of SoulSmith is very popular for its holistic health benefits and high quality ginseng, but Nani offers a variety of tempting tasty natural flavors such as blueberry ginger, lemon ginger, mixed berry, tangerine, and cranberry. She also makes traditional kimchi and turmeric-rich fermented radishes. Her versatile kimchi sauce combines moderately hot peppers, fresh ginger, garlic, onion and her signature kombucha. She recommends enjoying it on eggs, hummus, and stir fry dishes or mixing it with olive or avocado oil for dipping your favorite sourdough bread!

Nani feels blessed to teach yoga and meditation and to now additionally support her customers’ quality of life with her fermented products. If you haven’t experienced the delicious taste and health benefits of kombucha or kimchi, now is the time! Even if you have, it’s still the time as customers say it’s a holistic natural game changer!

Published: 06/13/2020

Producer Spotlight: Clover Top Creamery

The mother-daughter team of Clover Top Creamery have certainly found their calling and the result is high quality scrumptious goat cheese for you to enjoy!

Hillary Horn had a long rewarding career in the culinary arts including intensive training in France and operating several successful businesses in the field. Her daughter Madison pursued her love of animals and science by focusing on animal husbandry at local farms in Charlottesville and serving as a veterinary technician.

In 2016 they fell in love with their first LaMancha doe “Dot” and combined their passions and skills to begin making goat cheese. They toured countless creameries and Madison took advanced courses in cheesemaking from top artisans in the country. Dot got some company through the addition of numerous LaMancha and Alpine goats and soon breeding commenced on the farm. The final stage was transforming the hay shed into a solar-powered creamery.

Clover Top Creamery is now three years old. Madison’s wife Sasha joined the crew as Farm Manager and Madison’s sister Abigail completed training to become a Cheese Maker. This talented team offers a delicious variety of fresh and aged goat cheeses including uniquely flavored chèvre like Lemon Blueberry Basil and Fig Maple. Their Spicy Honey Crunch Roll features their classic chèvre rolled in crushed almonds and drizzled in honey with a sriracha kick!

When asked the key to their delicious goat cheese, Hillary stated, “The milk travels less than 50 feet to be turned into cheese. We don’t aim to be the biggest; we aim to be the best.” She’s proud of their product and the health and quality of life of their goats, who enjoy grazing and playing on 7 acres of pasture.

They miss the face-to-face interaction of the farmers markets, restaurants, and the store and tours at their farm but Hillary gratefully states, “The online markets have saved our lives. I think people understand more about where their food comes from and appreciate what’s grown locally during a situation like this.” You can support this farm, your health and your tastebuds through ordering their delicious, versatile goat cheese!

Published: 06/05/2020

Producer Spotlight: One Hive Farm

Six years ago Navy veteran Jaime Fox set out on a six-month journey hiking over 2000 miles of the Appalachian Trail. He knew he needed a break from the rat race and time to determine how he could slow down and simplify his life. It was during this expedition that he was inspired to become a beekeeper.

Upon his return he ambitiously delved into self-study, networking, and assembling supplies. Upon successfully making it through his first winter with one hive, he realized he had discovered a true passion. His hive count increased to five and he started One Hive Farm to share his bounty of honey with the community.

Like many successful beekeepers, Jaime trusts the bees to know best about how to take care of themselves. He supports them to protect their health and safety with as little interference as possible. The honey he extracts is a welcome byproduct of his beekeeping but his interest clearly comes from a true fascination and admiration for bees. He states, “Every hive acts and smells differently. Each jar of honey tastes differently. Each frame of honey is a snapshot in time of nectar that was gathered that particular day.”

In 2019 Jaime, his Navy Veteran wife, and their young son set out for another journey! They moved with their five hives out to Powhatan to give their bees and family ample land and access to wildflowers and vegetable, fruit and herb gardens. They typically use their beloved honey in tea and coffee and to glaze chicken and ham. One Hive Farm customers like its antimicrobial and antiseptic properties and many take a tasty spoonful daily. They appreciate its versatile uses in cooking and baking.

Jaime now produces honey from a total of 12 hives as he tends some at a friend’s house in Midlothian. He sells honey in a variety of sizes and offers a deliciously spreadable creamed honey. He also produces beeswax candles he describes as burning longer, brighter, and cleaner.

Wouldn’t you like to experience the unique snapshot in time in a jar of his honey and get a boost of local healthy goodness?

Published: 05/29/2020