Archive for October, 2020


Pick Your Own: Now more than ever

Posted on Oct 18 2020 | By

Farm visits safe and enjoyable way to travel back to normal

Autumn. Many consider it the finest of seasons. Even folks who don’t usually venture the countryside are tempted to take to the highways and byways during September and October.

Today, for more reasons than in the past, the urge has increased. Yes, the apples, pumpkins, cider, and flowers are still a lure. But toss in blue skies, cool temperatures, and colorful fall foliage, and the urge becomes even stronger. Now layer those attractions over a lockdown lifestyle that’s just beginning to ease up, and a day trip to a farm is de rigueur.

Here in Fauquier County, we are fortunate to have a thriving Pick Your Own farming community. There are at least a dozen such back-to-the-earth businesses in the county. Embrace other nearby localities, and your choice jumps to some 40 agricultural destinations.

Much of the fresh summer produce has come and gone. Added to the ephemeral nature of fresh vegetables, this summer’s weather has been less than hospitable to the land’s stewards. It’s been a challenge for the American Gothic folks who till the land.

Nonetheless, farmers persevere.

“Yes, we’ve had challenges this year. First, it was spring frosts, then dry weather, and now it’s wet, but that’s called farming,” said Jimmy Messick, who along with his brother, Ronnie, co-own Messick’s Farm Market in Bealeton. “If you’re not ready for those challenges, you shouldn’t be farming.”

Notwithstanding nature’s forces, his strawberry season was a success. He had nine miles—yes, nine—of strawberry rows. Tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, and a variety of other vegetables rounded out summer’s cornucopia. Now with the brisk fall weather comes flowers and pumpkins.

The market also carries local artisanal goods like handmade pasta, pastured meats, and skincare products. There is a made-to-order deli counter for those who come hungry for sandwiches and prepared salads and an ice cream stand.

Supporting small farmers is a worthwhile cause. In 1920, there were over six million farms scattered from sea to shining sea. Today, two million are left. And while that number is stabilizing, it’s the big boys increasingly plowing the earth, not mom and dad.

One of the small farms is Green Truck Farm in Markham that has plenty of pumpkins and winter squash for sale. The recorded phone message for September 19 informs, “We have a large variety of pumpkins, apples and fresh-made donuts and popcorn.”

Valley View Farm is located in Delaplane. The farm encompasses 500 acres in the scenic Delaplane Valley off Route 17.

“My great grandfather purchased the land for my grandfather back in the 1920s. He operated a beef and horse farm and rode in the Cobbler Hunt with George Patton of World War II fame,” said Philip Carter Strother.

“Twenty-six years ago, my grandfather planted the first peach orchard and started a pick your own operation,” said Strother. “We have been welcoming people to the farm ever since.

Today, the modest peach orchard has been expanded to include agricultural products, including fruit, vegetables, social lubricants, family activities, and more.

To visit the farm is to take a three-hour graduate course in farming. “When guests come out to Valley View, they’re going to get a hands-on farming experience,” explains Strother. The operation embodies the best of what is known as agritourism.

Amber King manages the farm market. “We have an apple orchard with five different varieties of pick-your-own apples. The sizes are a half-pack, pack, and half-bushel, costing $8, $15, and $23.”

Pre-picked apples are also available. Some fresh produce is still for sale, including tomatoes, potatoes, and cantaloupe, fresh eggs, flowers, honey products. Cider, wine, and mead tastings make for a pleasant after-picking experience.

The wine is produced by the farm and its sister property, the Philip Carter Winery in Hume. There are eight different hard ciders and three white wines and three red wines available for tasting and bottle purchases.

On the weekend of October 3, Valley View Farm is hosting “Sunset in the Orchard.”

The event will include live music in the evening. Food will be available on-site, including a food truck.

“People can come out, pick their own produce, hang out, listen to the music, and enjoy the sunset from the orchard,” said King.

The farm welcomes families and is pet friendly. “Guests are allowed to freely roam the orchard to pick fruit, enjoy picnics, and have an overall great experience,” said King.

Learn more
An impressive website describes in detail all of the Pick Your Own farms throughout the Northern Virginia region. The site includes information on each farm, tips on picking, directions, phone numbers, and websites.

One important tip is to call ahead or check a farm’s Facebook page or website to confirm produce availability and operating hours.

This one-stop encyclopedia of Pick Your Own information can be found at


Published in a September 2020 issue of the Fauquier Times

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Prissylily Co. debuts world of living green

Posted on Oct 18 2020 | By

Old Town shop showcasing unique house and office plants

On September 26, Prissylily Co. swung open its garden gate and launched a botanical garden-like shop in Warrenton. The timing could not have been better.   

Sales of house and office plants have soared during COVID-19 and for a good reason. There is ample scientific evidence that such plants reduce stress. The therapeutic effects of caring for plants can even lower blood pressure.

The “plant doctor” overseeing these benefits is a young entrepreneur whose passion for plants dates to three years ago. Priscilla Aviles, 27, and her hard to contain joy in growing and gifting plants to family and friends led to the shop’s opening, located at 30 South 3rd Street.

Initially, the company was created in 2013 as an online retailer of apparel and sunglasses. But soon, Aviles’ passion for plants took root and gave birth to a shift from the hypercompetitive field of apparel sales to a niche business where her expertise could be brought to bear.

Aviles’s joy in growing plants became the center of her life. “I began propagating them and creating more and more. I started giving them away to friends and family. Some might say I overdid it because I was getting comments like, ‘OK Priscilla, we have enough plants!”, said Aviles laughing.

That’s when her entrepreneurial streak struck green. In 2018, she launched plant sales on both Etsy and her apparel website. From the initial selection of six plants, the business evolved and broadened to include even rare and collector plants.

Aviles quickly recognized the strategy shift had opened up a new customer base. A lot of her buyers were from the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area. An increasing number began asking if she had a shop or a greenhouse where they could buy her plants.

The move to a brick and mortar business was driven by listening to her customers. She found the location in Old Town and “jumped at the opportunity to open a store.”

Her successful life in plants is paralleling her personal life. She was engaged to be married in July, but COVID-19 postponed the ceremony. She and her fiancé, Joseph Rose, independently own townhouses that are now on the market because they have jointly purchased a home in Warrenton. As a future married woman, the surname Rose will be fitting for a purveyor of plants.

Her assistant in the shop is Molly, who is also Aviles’s future sister-in-law.

In addition to the shop, Aviles still sells online and through Esty. The product line for all three venues includes plants, apparel, sunglasses, and more. But the heart of the business is in-door plants.

Stock in trade
As you enter the Prissylily Co., your eye will sweep across a landscape of over 100 plants. Asked what a shopper might typically find, Aviles’ immediate response is, “Beautiful plants!” Of course.

That beauty includes plants with intriguing names such as the Burle Marx Philodendron, Staghorn Fern, Starfish, Snake, Dwarf Fiddle Leaf, Africa Mask Peacock, Corkscrew, Black Jade Birds Nest, Samurai Draft, various cactuses, and more. Rare and collector plants come from Thailand and other points worldwide.

Prices range from $20 for the common variety plants up to $1,500 for collectibles like the Monstera Albo Variegated. Exotics and collectibles may not always be in stock.

In addition to in-store sales, the company also sells office plants with maintenance contracts for those who have “black thumbs.” Office plants bring the beauty of nature indoors, increase productivity, boost creativity, and provide a wow-factor to what otherwise could be a dreary office environment.

Aviles takes a holistic approach in creating an interior plant office plan that meets space and budgetary needs. The process begins with a free on-site consultation and then develops a customized proposal to ensure the plants’ survival.

The service includes fast and clean installation as well as maintenance packages if desired.

All shop plant sales come with care instructions. Consideration is being given to conducting classes on plant care, repotting, and more so customers can better care for their purchases.

Aviles advice to anyone considering striking out on their own is, “If it’s something you are passionate about and love, then you should go for it. Because then it doesn’t feel like work. I get excited to come in every day and see how my plants are doing,” said Aviles.

For a digital tour through the world of one of the newest and most unique shops in Warrenton, visit


Published in a September 2020 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES