Producer Spotlight: Gillispie's County Line Farm
Looking for a local source of quality meat from animals treated with care and respect and without steroids, hormones and unnecessary antibiotics? Valerie and Cody Gillispie of Gillispie’s County Line Farm can help! They started as homesteaders to provide the best nutrient dense real food for their own family. Fortunately, they have expanded their operation over the last few years to serve as a trustworthy source of meat to their community!
Valerie Norton Gillispie grew up in Kents Store and has fond memories of homesteading with her parents, as well as raising and showing various species of livestock in 4-H. Growing up, Cody helped his farming neighbor with general maintenance of his property which thankfully included the use of a tractor and other large equipment. Their valuable combination of knowledge, experience, and passion helped them thrive as homesteaders on 2 acres in Palmyra. They quickly outgrew the property and in 2016 purchased a seven-acre lot in Kents Store, where they got to work providing the best habitat for their diverse livestock of cows, pigs, goats and chickens.
To her dismay, Valerie’s Father did not share her love for goats, so she was excited to jump on exploring this enduring passion once leaving the nest! She raised LaManchas and Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats for several years, participated in performance programs, and became certified as a dairy tester through Dairy One. While they no longer milk goats on their current property, Valerie continues to serve small local dairies with testing services while she and Cody work towards growing their commercial meat goat herd.
Their small herd of grass-fed Murray Grey cattle can be traced back to the line Valerie & her sister showed as children in 4-H! They plan to pasture more cows on nearby leased property to expand their beef production this Spring and will have grass fed beef available this Summer!
Their heritage Berkshire and Tamworth pigs enjoy fresh whey from a local cheese maker and endless acorns as they forage in the woods through a netted rotation system. Their huts are moved with them and they enjoy a swimming hole where they can just be pigs! The Gillispies’ latest family favorite is cooking pork chops in the air fryer.
The chickens enjoy the good life too! Through the use of “chicken tractors” their birds get access to fresh pasture daily along with locally milled non-GMO grains. They sell eggs from their Golden Comets and meat from their Cornish crosses. Customers frequently remark on the juiciness of their chicken. While they mostly cook whole roasted chickens, the family loves a good chicken salad with grapes, almonds, and celery.
The Gillispies value home raised food from humanely treated animals so much that they make time to farm even with two full-time jobs and two daughters under the age of 3. They are grateful to raise their girls on the farm as evidenced by Valerie remarking, “My fondest childhood memories include working outside with our 4-H projects. It taught us so many life lessons, especially responsibility and work ethic. You take care of the animals even if you’re tired, hot, sick, or freezing half to death. They’re counting on you to be there 365 days of the year.”
Gillispie’s County Line Farm can serve as your local source for trustworthy quality meats. Raising animals with care, respect, and a healthy diet makes all the difference in taste, texture, and nutrition and the community agrees! The Gillispies are upgrading systems and infrastructures on the farm this Spring in hopes of supplying the ever-growing demand for their products from their community. So look out for more healthy meats from this hard working couple!
Producer Spotlight: Island Farms
Do you know much about the process and benefits of growing food hydroponically? Thankfully Tim Patrick of Island Farms did all the homework and legwork so you can enjoy nutrient dense fresh greens year-round!
Tim fondly remembers childhood summers spent helping his grandfather with his cattle farm and large family garden. Though his interest in farming was sparked, he ultimately chose a different career path. Tim spent almost 40 years in construction as a Class A Builder immersed in large-scale residential and commercial building projects. Not long after the recession of 2008, he closed his business and delved more deeply into researching and experimenting with growing crops hydroponically. Meanwhile, Janice, his wife of 21 years, retired from her long career as a teacher and started her own pet-sitting business. Retirement meant anything but relaxation for these two!
Five years ago, Janice’s father sadly passed away. This led to Janice and Tim moving into their newly inherited property of over 500 acres just twenty minutes down the road. Tim’s background in construction served him well as he went to work building a 24 x 60 greenhouse with mostly reclaimed material. Upon completion, he set up a hydroponic growing system with a nutrient film technique (NFT) involving a series of tubes to house the plants and pumps for all their water and nutrition needs.
It took two years of intensive research to find the right source of nutrition. The master blend Tim uses provides all the micronutrients needed to help his plants thrive! He uses an electric conductivity (EC) meter and routinely assesses water temperature and pH. He started with successfully growing a variety of lettuces, herbs and cherry tomatoes that he sold to local farmers markets. Then he added hydroponically grown sunflower and radish microgreens, which provide a fresh concentrated boost of both taste and nutrition! He also grows spinach, kale, swiss chard, arugula, romaine and bok choy. He loves the challenge of getting conditions just right to expand his offerings each season to bring more nutrient dense veggies and herbs to your plate!
Due to the different temperature and nutrition demands of certain crops, Tim needed separate growing space from his greenhouse. He is finishing up a hoop house this year where he will grow a variety of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and strawberries. He will also grow green beans hydroponically outside! If you tasted his unbelievably sweet and fresh cherry tomatoes last year, you should be VERY excited about this expansion into additional varieties!
Tim’s 120 chickens also keep him busy! On a good day he gets close to 75 eggs from his Rhode Island Red cross hens who enjoy fresh air and non-GMO feed. His fresh eggs, greens, and tomatoes certainly make a wonderful omelet or frittata! When asked his favorite way to enjoy his bounty, Tim said with a laugh, “We eat a lot of salads with just ranch dressing. Well, I do like a raspberry vinaigrette sometimes. We make kale chips and I eat two eggs every single morning.” Customers rave about his salad mixes of lettuces like Harmony and Bellevue with its beautiful red tips. They also love the fresh eggs and how just a small serving of microgreens really increases the nutrient density of any meal!
Island Farms is a fitting name for their business as approximately 175 acres of their property is located on Elk Island, the largest island on the James River. They enjoy the serene setting and the fishing of course! Tim loves this endeavor he took on later in life and is truly passionate about the benefits of growing food hydroponically. Experience the taste and nutrition for yourself by adding fresh local produce from Island Farms to your cart!
Producer Spotlight: Great Harvest Bakery Cafe
Kim Buehler’s endless drive and corresponding need for high quality fuel made Great Harvest Bakery Cafe a perfect fit! Opening her own franchise enabled her to help busy neighbors access simple ingredient meals and snacks made fresh from scratch each day!
After earning a Pastry Arts Degree from the University of Richmond, Kim ran a successful chocolate and custom cake business. This endeavor allowed her time to pursue another true passion: Ironmans! As you may recall, the running portion alone is a full marathon! Throw in over two miles of swimming and 112 miles of biking before that grueling run! In fact, she is scheduled to represent the United States for the next worlds competition in Amsterdam! Kim humbly described her success by stating, “I’m not the fastest but I never stop.”
Kim’s endurance training regimen necessitated her quest for quality fuel in the form of healthy, wholesome, real food. She was drawn to Great Harvest’s breads because they were made from scratch using simple, natural ingredients including grains from family farms in Montana. As she explored their products and mission more, she became interested in starting her own franchise. She appreciated the creative freedom and flexibility they offered. So, she headed out to “Big Sky Country” for their intensive month-long bread school!
In February of 2017, Kim opened up her very own Great Harvest Bakery Cafe, located conveniently right on Midlothian Turnpike. Neighbors love the welcoming community vibe of her store where they enjoy breakfast or lunch sandwiches, salads, soups, and tasty unique treats like blueberry cream cheese scones and cheddar and chive biscuits. Even running and biking groups come to replenish with a wholesome meal and a cup of locally roasted Ironclad coffee. Customers can taste the difference in bread made from a base of freshly milled grains and the simple ingredients of filtered water, honey, yeast and salt.
Kim additionally participates in numerous local farmers markets. With only one full-time sweets baker and a small part-time staff, she clearly does never stop! The variety of baked goods available through the RVAg Markeplace is remarkable! Her coveted flavored sourdoughs include irresistible caramel apple, rosemary and sea salt, and cranberry walnut. The Italian asiago cheese sourdough makes one phenomenal grilled cheese! Customers report her popular cinnamon chip bread tastes just like French toast. Her pepperoni swirl rolls dipped in marinara sauce make for a simple scrumptious snack the whole family will love! Oftentimes seasonal produce inspires her creations, like her pumpkin scones or berry cobbler bar.
Kim and her team aim to please when it comes to special celebrations and gifts, such as her King Cakes, chocolate covered strawberries, adorable bread bears, and cookie decorating kits. You can become the celebrated baker in your own family by using her cookie and scone kits or hot cereal and pancake mixes. There are even options for those with gluten sensitivities. You’ll want to top her handmade breads with her salted vanilla honey or cinnamon honey butters! Plenty of mouth-watering treats to make your loved ones feel special like cinnamon rolls, bread pudding, cinnamon chip pull-aparts and chocolate babka!
Kim Buehler knows people on the run like her need easy, simple ingredient, high quality food to fuel busy lives! Let Great Harvest Bakery Cafe help you and your family with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as tasty snacks and treats!
Producer Spotlight: Windy Hill Farm
The Williams family of Windy Hill Farm practices a healthy lifestyle and strives to support you in your own quest for wellness. Carla states, “I’m not going to feed you something I wouldn’t eat or feed to my family. I want my family and our community as healthy as they can be, so we keep things as simple and pure as possible.” How wonderful to find a local meat producer that prioritizes the health and quality of life of their animals, knowing the beneficial impact this has on your health!
Carla and Tony Williams both grew up in Caroline County. They were married all of one year when they ambitiously purchased a 33 acre farm in Bumpass. The property had been a productive farm many years ago, but they had a lot of work ahead of them. According to Carla, Tony is always up for such a challenge, remarking, “He is confident in that he sees no obstacles or barriers in life.” Fortunately, Tony also had an educational background in agriculture and economics from Virginia Tech. He had gained some farming experience in his childhood helping his Grandfather, who he credits for sparking his ambition and passion for farming.
Amazingly, they raised eight children and ran multiple businesses (including a successful construction company), all while growing the farm from a handful of cows to a diverse group of livestock including pigs, sheep, and chickens. They added to their acreage making room for more livestock, as well as fields and greenhouses for vegetables. Carla even became a Registered Nurse, stating, “I worked for a few years in the field and then was happy to apply the knowledge at home to care for my growing family.”
From the start, Carla and Tony Williams knew they wanted to raise their livestock in the fresh air on fresh pasture. Their cows spend their whole lives on pasture, being rotated to fresh grass daily during the summer months. Unlike many other meat suppliers, the cows of Windy Hill are never given grain. In the winter they are fed their own hay and grass silage. Similarly, the sheep are rotated to fresh pasture regularly and the pigs are fed non-GMO feeds grown locally and made on the farm. The chickens are free to frolic and forage during the day but are protected at night from predatory visitors like bald eagles and foxes.
Through a family friend they found the perfect fit for their farm in Kylie Bowman, who has essentially become part of the family in the past three years. It’s clear when you meet Kylie she is in her dream job! She enjoys the physical nature of the work involved in caring for and moving the livestock and is especially fond of the pigs! The Williams kids have helped at the farm through the years, but only two younger children remain at home. The 9 grandchildren make up for their absence as they frequently visit to run around the farm and enjoy the animals. Their daughter handles the impressive task of bookkeeping across all their endeavors!
The Williams also run a farm store down the road from the farm. This is yet another way for them to pursue their mission to nurture their community with their antibiotic and pesticide free pasture raised meats. They use the retail space to support other local growers and producers to sell products like produce, baked goods and artisan crafts. They aim to be a one stop shop for local residents to obtain kitchen staples, specialty goods and even gifts.
With all the delicious options at her fingertips, Carla still favors the simple clean goodness of their steaks. Their bacon, sausages, and bratwursts are so coveted by customers that it’s hard to keep them in stock. Their breakfast patties and links in sage or maple are a tasty way to start your day! She wants to ensure that customers understand that their grass-fed meats require a slightly different approach to cooking, stating, “Since we don’t feed our animals grain, our meat has less fat so you have to be careful how you cook it. Cooking it long and slow is the key for the best taste and texture.”
Carla and her family fully committed to their nutrition journey some time ago. They felt compelled to not only spread their message but to supply their community with a crucial component of their healthy diet: grass-fed quality beef and natural non-GMO raised pork from healthy, happy animals. Windy Hill Farm is that local meat and egg supplier you’ve been looking for, who can be trusted to provide you a quality source of protein from healthy livestock who enjoy a natural diet and habitat.
Producer Spotlight: Virginia Free Farm (2 Care to Share)
Amyrose Foll is one of the most tireless inspiring advocates you will ever meet. Her profound passion to help community members who are most in need is awe inspiring. She doesn’t just grow and provide them wholesome real food; she empowers them to grow their own food. Gaining self-sufficiency is a goal everyone can get behind and she needs your help!
Amyrose has always had an energizing presence and ambitious drive. She describes herself by remarking, “I am admittedly a workaholic. I have this internal engine that keeps driving me. Doing for others is my source of joy.” It shows! She is a U.S. Army Veteran who simultaneously worked as a full-time nurse and firefighter for ten years! She has run her own sign/graphic design business for 6 years now.
Growing up hunting, fishing, and foraging, Amyrose always had an interest in seeking out and growing quality food. As an adult, she honed her initial gardening skills by growing food for her family. She followed her passion for farming and accumulated twenty years of experience working on farms, selling at farmers markets, and engaging in extensive self-study and formal education in viticulture, fruit tree production, poultry production, and woodlot management.
The year 2013 marked a turning point in her life. She divorced and bought 20 acres of land in Fluvanna County to raise her three children in a peaceful place that would holistically foster healthy bodies and minds. While still running her sign business, Amyrose went to work implementing regenerative practices to enrich and nourish the land so it could enrich and nourish her family and eventually, her community.
While her garden became increasingly productive, Amyrose was becoming increasingly frustrated about the vicious cycle of poverty and the associated problems of access to real, naturally grown food. She states, “We do not have a food shortage problem. We have social justice and equitable distribution of food problems coupled with wanton disregard for the sacred soil beneath our feet.” Without access to nutrient dense food, all other challenges to meet basic needs are clearly compounded. How refreshing and inspiring to see her do something about it!
In 2019 Amyrose started the Virginia Free Farm to provide free nutrient dense food to those who need it most. She has helped residents in low-income housing start community gardens, supplying essential training, infrastructure, seeds, plants, and even chickens and ducks. She dispels persistent myths by stating, “They don’t want Slim Jims or other products from convenient stores. They want real food. Plus, it’s therapy to dig in the dirt.” She has also provided similar services, as well as nutrition and seed-saving education to support local group homes. She aims for long-term impact in her mission to cultivate food security for at risk Virginians.
Local youth learn where their food comes from through her work in schools and programs for at-risk children. She takes pride in her Penobscot and Abenaki native heritage and empowers children by teaching them about indigenous agricultural practices and ways of life. Amyrose knows our children have the future of our environment’s health in their hands, stating, “One of the things I treasure most is teaching ethnobotany to children. We are cultivating the next generation of land and water protectors. If we get in now, we raise more environmentally conscious adults.”
Amyrose describes a big source of her motivation by remarking, “I love seeing other people happy and connecting people together to do something amazing.” She certainly has the knack for it and frequently remarks she could never run all the programs under Virginia Free Farm alone. She has partnered with community agencies, networked through leadership organizations, and is even exploring using satellite farms to stretch her outreach. She spreads the word about her mission everywhere and is even featured in the current issue of Mother Earth News!
In addition to her family, she is grateful for help from a small committed staff, 12 regular volunteers, including two large dedicated families who bring their children to reap the immeasurable benefits of getting dirty in the soil and devoting time and energy to others. This is where you come in! Please consider joining others who care about their community and sign up to volunteer here.
Amyrose and her husband both have full-time jobs, so she needs your financial support to keep her dream alive and provide essential services to those who are most in need. When you are done adding goods to your RVAg cart, support the Virginia Free Farm through a donation to 2 Care to Share. If each customer donated just $10 it would have a tremendous impact on hungry Goochland residents. There is also an option to donate monthly to Virginia Free Farm through their Patreon link.
Check out all their current projects and farming practices on their website for a healthy dose of inspiration and to learn about the numerous ways YOU can help your neighbors!
Producer Spotlight: Gathered Threads
Katherine Herman is a woman of many talents. She describes herself with a laugh, stating, “I’m an all or nothing sort of person.” If Katherine’s interest is sparked, she immerses herself in the new activity until she masters a new skill. The initial catalyst for her farming passion happened in far-away Tanzania.
Following graduation with an Animal Sciences Degree from Virginia Tech, Katherine pursued her love of travel and helping others by joining the Peace Corp. Although she was provided some training, it was largely trial by fire. Katherine remarked, “I brought little hands-on experience. I had to learn Swahili. I lived in a village by myself in the middle of nowhere and was given a quarter acre plot to grow corn, beans, and rice.”
Katherine returned to the states energized by the experience and landed a job at a newer farming operation, Tree and Leaf Farm, in Unionville, Virginia. She learned a tremendous amount across multiple areas of farming from growing and harvesting to managing farmers markets and staff. Since it’s her nature, Katherine pursued other interests on the side like fermentation, sewing, and even reflexology!
Her farming experience was broadened by working at Radical Roots Farm while she completed a 3 year program at Sacred Plant Tradition in Charlottesville to become an herbal clinician. She can attest to the benefits of medicinal herbs from her own positive experience as a patient (related to Lyme Disease). Katherine is a huge proponent of local herbs due to their freshness and superior quality. She believes they can help you reap the energy and vitality of your region and protect you from pathogens specific to your area.
When Katherine was contemplating a small sewing business while farming full time, she latched onto the name Gathered Threads. She liked how it represented how life skills are all tied together to make something work, so that’s what she named the 6 acre farm she bought with her husband Ralph in 2015. What started out as an empty sloping field is now a productive farm with greenhouses, high-tunnels, hoop houses, irrigation, and a walk-in cooler. The COVID related loss of Ralph’s truck driving job enabled him to devote more time to building this essential infrastructure and he quickly became an integral part of daily farm life. He’s finishing up a 30 x 100’ propagation greenhouse and recently completed a solar powered herb dehydrator that is conducive to their eco-friendly approach to farming.
Katherine’s many talents enable customers to enjoy a real variety of high quality products. Her herb kitchen kits can help you make all sorts of tasty creations like drinking vinegars, mocktails and cocktails, and simple syrups. Her spice blends make cooking a snap and it tastes and feels good to use local herbs grown naturally and sustainably! Her popular teas can offer aid for all sorts of needs, such as immunity support, stress reduction, and sleep. Gathered Threads has other products to help you unwind and shed stress like massage oil kits, herbal bath and body scrubs, facial steam herbal kits, and skin calming salves.
Many of Gathered Threads’ diverse selection of gut-healthy fermented products were inspired by different cultures. She incorporates traditional regional recipes in her Central American and Asian-inspired line-up of kimchis, sauerkrauts, and fermented veggie medleys. All the vegetables in these fermentations are grown with no pesticides or chemical fertilizers on their own farm or sourced from organic or local farms with sustainable growing practices.
Take advantage of the products that result from Katherine’s tireless pursuits to help her community holistically improve their health. Reap the benefits, inside and out, of shopping local with Gathered Threads!
Producer Spotlight: Sing-Along Soap
Julie Kogut has a sincere love for handmade natural soap. She describes her passion as an obsession and her enthusiasm is completely infectious! She has pursued her interest in making soap, perfecting recipes and processes, for six years. Prior to embarking on her quest for the best all-natural vegan soap, Julie worked in a dramatically different field.
Julie was living with her husband Jeff in busy Northern Virginia (NOVA). She served as a Program Manager in the corporate sector. While it suited her self-proclaimed Type A personality for some time, she came to a point where a significant lifestyle change was imperative. She left the corporate world and within six months began to sell her beloved handmade soaps on her self-created website.
The name of the company, Sing-Along Soap, was a natural choice. Julie and Jeff are impassioned proponents of singing in the shower! They can attest to the spiritual, mental and physical benefits and well, it’s just plain fun! In fact, each soap is named after a song, like her charcoal based “Blackbird” soap, “Tuff Enuff” shaving soap, and dog shampoo bar aptly named “Hound Dog.” Jeff is quite the musician and they both love to sing his renditions of the songs behind the soaps!
From the start, Julie was very selective about the ingredients in her products. She wanted a soap for EVERYONE! Therefore, she uses all natural, plant-based ingredients and only essential oils for added scent. She prioritizes the use of eco-friendly ingredients and excludes palm oil (a common soap ingredient) due to environmental concerns related to harvesting.
Three years ago, Julie and Jeff left bustling NOVA for a peaceful 12.5-acreage property in Rockville, Virginia. In many ways she had to start over to find a new customer base, but her soap was quickly a hit at local farmers markets. She has received glowing reviews from customers with acne-prone skin who love her charcoal based series, as well as pet owners who sing the praises of her dog shampoo bar. Most customers purchase a variety so they can choose among scents that match their moods and needs. The sandalwood scent of “Dream On” and the lavender in “Purple Haze” are warming and soothing. The spearmint-rich “Good Vibrations” and citrus scent of “New Sensation” are energizing in a morning shower or after a workout.
Dedicated thought and care are put into each Sing-Along Soap bar. Julie is a one-woman show and she loves every aspect of the creation process. Her soap creations are often based on customers’ spirited requests such as her menthol shaving soap, “Cold As Ice.” This shaving puck can be used by men and women alike. It softens and lathers for a comfortable shave and provides an invigorating mint-eucalyptus scent. Another customer inspired creation is her “Shining Star” shampoo and body bar soap. It’s unique with its appealing mint-lavender pairing and appreciated by outdoor enthusiasts and the environmentally conscious.
Sing-Along Soaps are beautifully and lovingly crafted with simple, natural ingredients. Shop among Julie Kogut’s impressive variety to find the right fit for you. Each one will make you want to linger in the shower, singing one more tune!
Producer Spotlight: Hobby Hill Farm Fresh
Do you know anyone who seems to have endless energy and drive, who consistently follows her passion no matter the hard work, creativity and pivoting required? That is a good description of Sharon Munyak of Hobby Hill Farm Fresh. She is a woman of many talents who never sees barriers, only opportunities to grow.
Sharon possesses a real love of horses that can be traced back to her childhood days in 4H. She immersed herself personally and professionally in this passion and established a career in retail selling horse supplies. Her interest in leather goods was sparked so she delved into manufacturing purses and totebags and sold her products in local farmer markets. This warm, encouraging and lively venue led her to exploring her culinary talents. She added homemade breads, jams, and candy to her line-up of products at her booth.
Sharon was so successful that she soon needed to rent commercial kitchen space, where she got to work adding specialty pretzels and cheeses to her offerings. Through her culinary journey she has partnered with wonderful farms, like Agriberry and Thistledown, to ensure the majority of her ingredients are from local producers. Some are even sourced from her own 1-acre garden at home!
Five years ago Sharon was ready to take the next step and opened up her own store in Powhatan. Located conveniently on Anderson Highway, Hobby Hill Farm Fresh provides a welcoming community vibe where you can meet so many of your needs! You can dine in or grab take-out from a menu that changes daily, enjoy afternoon tea, or pick up a treat or pre-ordered dessert for a special occasion. You can also shop for all sorts of goods and gifts including her beloved products for horses (like cooling vests and fly whisps), leather handbags, and so much more.
Sharon offers a variety of culinary classes focused on how to make artisan breads, French pastries, different cheeses, her famous cinnamon and bourbon buns, gluten free baked goods and more! You can also learn about canning, preserving, and decorating cakes and holiday cookies. Sharon has had to shift amidst the pandemic like the rest of us, so many are offered online or in socially distanced small groups with a reservation.
Hobby Hill is known for countless tasty treats but customers really rave about Sharon’s signature pretzels! Check out these flavor combinations on the RVAg Marketplace: sundried tomato and basil, rosemary and salt, jalapeno and cheddar, and asiago! Butter and salt pretzel rolls are available too! Customers also appreciate their thoughtful offerings for special diets like gluten-free brownies and keto almond joy bites and PB & J fat bombs!
Holiday shopping is simple with their holiday candy box of smooth buttery toffee with rich dark chocolate. Peppermint chocolate bark, cake pops, and biscotti would please everyone on your list! Their cranberry scones with chocolate and apple bread with cinnamon topping are great for Christmas morning. Enjoy their yeast rolls with Christmas dinner and their cheesecake cupcakes or cherry almond ricotta cookies for dessert! It feels good anytime of the year to support a local small business owner like Sharon Munyak of Hobby Hill Farm Fresh!
Producer Spotlight: Chicory Hill Farm
Greg Paul made a life-changing decision one year ago that couldn’t have worked out better for his family and the local community they serve!
Back in 2010, Greg took over the family home improvement business. Though he took pride in his role and the success of the company, it was extremely demanding and depleted time and energy he had to give his wife and children. By 2019, he knew he needed a change. He and his parents decided to sell the business and Greg got to work fulfilling his dream at home on his Goochland farm.
Greg and Suzanne Paul bought their 48-acre property in 2015. While Greg was managing the home improvement company and Suzanne was busy as a nurse practitioner, they did their best to grow vegetables and raise cattle, pigs, and chickens for food for their family. Upon selling the business, Greg finally had the time to focus on expanding the family farm to sell wholesome, high quality food to their community. He also committed to home schooling their four children!
Joel Salatin, the well-known outspoken farmer of Polyface Farms in Swoope, VA, served as an important mentor. Since Greg similarly prioritized the health and happiness of his animals and the quality of their meat, he adopted many of Joel’s practices. Greg ensured their animals could forage and graze on fresh pasture daily by utilizing a similar movable chicken pen and cattle pasture rotation system. In fact, the cows inspired the Chicory Hill Farm name due to their visible distaste for mature hickory, which they leave behind when they are grazing the luscious hills of their property.
The family farm couldn’t be more ideal for supplementing the kids’ education. They are paid more than minimum wage for their farm duties, which clearly helps them learn money management skills and the value of hard work. The oldest daughter is responsible for caring for the pigs and rabbits. The middle two daughters help with processing chickens, sorting, and packing. The youngest is doing what four year olds do best-trying to establish his independence! The family also finally has more time to devote to a larger vegetable garden and lots of canning!
Greg and Suzanne expected to enjoy a gratifying slow growth as they eased into their role as a farming family, but COVID had other plans! Greg remarked, “We are tickled with how things have gone. As crazy a year as it’s been for the world, we are so grateful it’s been such a good year for our family.” They are pleased with the demand from RVAg customers for their pastured chicken, available whole or in numerous types of cuts (and even chicken feet for a dog treat). They are also grateful for all of the online orders for their grass-fed beef on their website.
The community is so fortunate to have access to a local farm that gives their animals access to fresh air and pasture each day. The way the Paul family raises their animals has such a significant impact on the quality, taste and tenderness of their products. Greg describes their approach simply and effectively by remarking, “It’s real food, raised right.” Make Chicory Hill Farm your go-to local farm for pastured chicken and grass fed beef!
Producer Spotlight: Schofield Farm
We’re so fortunate to have a local gourmet mushroom producer! Growing mushrooms was a relatively easy decision and a good fit for Paul and Katie Schofield. They appreciate not only their taste and nutritional properties, but also the fact that the production process is gentle on the planet.
The low ecological footprint was a big priority for Paul, who obtained a Biology Degree from VCU and currently works at the Sustainable Urban Agriculture Center of VSU. Within this role he maintains chickens, rabbits, a vegetable garden, and a small orchard. He is committed to ongoing study and research to stay current in the field and to perfect growing processes at work and home.
In 2014, the Schofields started small by growing 10-20 pounds of oyster mushrooms per week at their 5 acre farm in Ford, Virginia. From the start, they used only natural materials with no chemical sprays or additives. They eventually obtained two shipping containers and outfitted them with insulation, climate control and humidification. They also purchased a greenhouse for incubation space and learned that growing on sawdust and soybean hulls was the most effective strategy.
Paul and Katie have consistently used sustainable practices to keep their environmental footprint low. They take full advantage of the high organic matter present in the spent mushroom substrate (of soybean hulls, sawdust and mycelium). By adding it to activated biochar and aged manure from local grass-fed cattle and their own sheep, they create compost to grow other crops on their farm. As a result of gaining more experience and equipment to refine their growing process, they added shiitake and lions mane mushrooms to their production. By 2015 Schofield Farm began selling their line of gourmet mushrooms for the community to enjoy!
Fast forward to 2020 and they are now growing and selling 150-200 pounds of mushrooms per week to local chefs and farmers market customers! It’s amazing they can make time for this level of production as Katie is a music teacher in the Dinwiddie public school system and they have two children aged one and four. This busy couple has a clear commitment to learning, improving, and expanding and clearly thrive on the challenge! They are currently trialing five varieties of garlic and have had great success with growing ginger and strawberries. So be on the look-out for new products coming your way!
Mushrooms are such a versatile, welcome additions to meals. They soak up delicious oils and spices while adding umami and nutritional benefits. Paul’s favorite use for his beloved mushrooms is Jagerschnitzel, a German dish with a mushroom onion gravy over pork with a side of potatoes. He sometimes likes to keep things simple and cut thick slices of shiitake to cook in butter with salt and fresh homegrown garlic. He’s a big fan of mushrooms in beef stew and stir fry.
Take advantage of having a mushroom grower just outside of Richmond! Shop Schofield Farm’s mushrooms to add savory taste and unique texture to your meals! They make a great addition to your holiday stuffing or gravy for your turkey!