Green grows the land

By Posted on Apr 20 2019 | By

Valley View Farm poised for second century of success

It’s a story we are all familiar with: the disappearing family farm. 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 that are increasingly plowing the earth not mom and dad.

So, it’s refreshing to hear a story that began at the height of family farming a century ago and is still going strong. Swing open the garden gate and let’s learn about Fauquier County’s Valley View Farm.

“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.

Strother, 49, is the current owner of both the farm and Philip Carter Winery in Hume. The farm itself encompasses 500 acres in the scenic Delaplane Valley off Route 17. “Twenty-six years ago, my grandfather planted the first peach orchard and started a pick your own operation. We have been welcoming people to farm the ever since.”

Strother is quick to point out he does not call himself the owner of the farm. Rather he’s the steward. Why?

“This is a generational farm. We believe as a family we are here for a short time and during that time the person who has management authority over the farm is the steward.

“It’s that person’s responsibility to leave the farm a little bit better than it came to them. To carry it forward, to preserve it, to maintain it and to enhance it for the next generation,” Strother said.

Today that modest peach orchard beginning has been dramatically expanded to include all manner agricultural related 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.

With the ongoing disappearance of family farming, today’s generation of both adults and children have minimal knowledge of how grocery store products are actually produced. Just grab some corn, green beans, a couple of steaks and head to the checkout counter. This stuff came from the land? Interesting.

Nature’s bounty
Depending upon harvest timing the farm acts as an open-air grocery store or a farmer’s market on steroids.

Consider what you can buy from their bountiful “aisles”: Fruit butters, honey, jellies, jams, preserves, syrups, salsas, salad dressings, cheeses, fudge, peanuts, strawberries, squash, beans, peas, radishes, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, zucchini, potatoes, beets, carrots, onions, broccoli and even sunflowers.

Then the real fun begins. Before or after heading out to the fields to pick their own grocery basket, guests can stop by the farm’s tasting room and enjoy a glass of hard cider, mead, peach wine, or white or red table wine. A 45-acre on-site vineyard supports both the farm’s wine production and its winery in Hume.

If guests elect to enjoy a delicious glass of cold cider, they can then go to the orchard and pick the fruit that produced the classic farm beverage.

Honey Bee initiative
In keeping with Strother’s stewardship philosophy, this spring a partnership initiative with George Mason University will commence with the release of up to a half a million honey bees that will support 10 hives.

The high annual loss of honey bees, as well as range reduction and local extinctions of both wild and native pollinators, are of great concern within the farming community.

Approximately one-third of the typical Western diet requires bee pollination and honey bees are the primary pollinators of numerous food crops, including fruits, nuts, vegetables, and oilseeds. Annually, insect-pollinated crops are valued at approximately $175 billion in the United States.

The effort will focus on developing resistance to a virus attacking queen bees that has been decimating the honey bee population. The university will manage the hives and retain the ensuing research for the study.

In exchange, the farm will be given the honey for use in tastings, sales and mead production. It’s always fun to support an effort that benefits both man and nature. Especially when a tasty adult beverage is involved.

Not content to lean on its pitchfork, this season the farm will open a viewing zoo to showcase the numerous delights of farm world inhabitants. “We will have some Highland cattle, emus, llamas, pigs, and many more farm animals, some unique more than others, Strother said.

“It will give suburbanites who are not used to seeing farm animals in their daily life the opportunity” to see them up close and personal.

Another initiative is a collaborative effort with Sky Meadows State Park to restore an old farm road that backdrops both properties. When completed it will allow guests from both the farm and the park to hike, jog and even ride horses between the two venues.

“The stables would be in Sky Meadows and people could ride over to Valley View. We will have a hitching post and guests could have a pint of cider or glass of wine and then head back to Sky Meadows on horseback,” said Strother.

This spring the farm will also partner with Hidden Creek Farm who will provide organically grown vegetables in addition to what is grown on the farm. A pumpkin patch and new corn maze will round out the end of harvest fun.

In summarizing what he seeks to achieve Strother says, “My commitment is to do the best I can to contribute to our long traditions of agriculture in the Commonwealth and to make the past pastoral ideal accessible to as many people as possible. Guests can come and appreciate quality products that are grown here in Virginia,” he said.

It’s gratifying that a unique place like Valley View Farm is managed by a steward whose vision for next the century is to be even more productive than in its storied past.

For a full digital tour of the farm and its 2019 seasonal delights visit https://valleyviewva.com/


Published in the April 17, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES