A Fitting Time for Reflection on the Farm
By Mike Snow
Head of Farm Operations at Willowsford Farm
This is the last week of the Spring/Summer share and it might be fitting to be a little reflective. Deb and I both had the opportunity to be with family for a few days this weekend, which can be a challenging thing to do this time of year. We have a really fantastic team of farmers this year, which makes it possible for each of us to take time when we need it. That doesn’t happen all the time or with every team. In all three Farm Departments – Vegetable, Animal, Farm Stand – we have a great family.
You don’t often meet them (or meat them in Alex H’s case), but these are the people behind your food.
Al R and Anya R (AR squared) are back for their third and second years. They are co-managing the farm on Founders and have taken the lead on veggie production – they’ve done an excellent job keeping on top of every piece of the production pie, even when I’ve gotten caught up in various projects. Lex (Alex H) is also back for his third year and has moved to Peach Orchard Lane with the livestock – reclaiming old buildings and infrastructure, raising thousands of chickens, our first pigs, turkeys and caring for our goats when they’re at home.
Jennifer J is in her third year here, newborn Greta in tow. I used to think that CSA was simple – fill the boxes and drive them places. Ours is more complicated than that, and she’s managing all the details of a dozen different box configurations delivered to a half-dozen locations. James G and Nathan F have both worked here all or parts of several years. They know the ins and outs, do a lot of heavy lifting, take care of livestock, and harvest – a lot of harvest. It’s a huge relief having continuity on a farm. In fact, we have just two rookies this year: Bree C and Annie M. It’s hard to remember that either of them are new. They’ve fit in seamlessly, picked up the nuances quickly, and have helped us make numerous improvements, some of which you see and some that are less visible.
Annie and Julia W and Elizabeth G-M, back for their second years, have rocked the Farm Stand. It’s been easy to rely on them both, to set up and manage the Farm Stand, and also to improve it. They’ve added new touches, new ideas and new energy. I love what they’re doing with Deb there, and love how comfortable Deb is leaving the stand in their hands.
The Veggie Squad all does some of everything here – in the greenhouse, in the field, planting, harvesting, washing and packing; delivering and even manning the Farm Stand. They are the eyes and ears in the field. They rotate in and out of animal care when needed. Alex H pitches in on veggie production, as do the Farm Standers.
Most important, it’s been easy to rely on them all, to do the farming, to grow and improve our systems, and to set up and manage the Farm Stand. Running farms and farm stands may not be rocket science, but it’s not easy. It’s hard work and can be a grind. It takes a lot of energy, organization, discipline, perseverance, and plain work. And care.
We hope you’ve noticed good things. CSA has gone smoothly and I think this has been one of our best years of late. Shares are robust, they look and taste good, and we hope you’re happy with their quality. Our systems for getting product around to various distribution sites and to the Farm Stand and Willowsford Kitchen have improved; something you don’t see but that makes a big difference internally each week. And so far this is our best year yet at the Farm Stand.
This farm, like the community, is not master-planned. We started with a vision and direction for ourselves, but we’ve allowed things to grow organically and responsively to the land, our customers, and new opportunities. That means we’re still growing. Thanks to the Farm team this is the first year that Deb and I really feel like we can spend the time we need on new projects.
As Deb says, “Team Work Makes the Dream Work.” Say hi to the team when you see them.
Mike and the Nucular Farmily: Deb, Al, Lex, Anya, James, Nate, Bree, Jennifer, Annie, Julia, Elizabeth; Bella and Radish, Goats x 11 (wait, how many now?), Camilla chickens x six or seven hundred, turkeys, dinner chicks, very cold pigs, Roscoe RIP and Popcorn, at the pre-Pre Draft bball combine expecting to be selected with Brooklyn’s 2018 first round pick.
Most of all, I appreciate how comfortable Deb is with leaving the stand in their hands. I’ve asked a lot of her: new shares, design and construction projects, we’ve added a third farm and are still learning how to get around them all, new website development, cleaning up and improving our accounting, and working on a business plan for a new Farm Stand. Around here, that means a lot of meetings; it’s also meeting prep, meeting follow-up, oversight, research, travel time and writing. I’m glad to talk more about what we’re doing if you’re interested. It’s been a lot and we still have a ways to go.
Willowsford Farm manages over 300 acres of agricultural land, growing more than 100 varieties of vegetables, herbs, fruit, and flowers, and raising several breeds of livestock. Join the CSA, community supported agriculture, or visit the Farm Stand open Tuesday-Friday from 2 to 7 PM and Saturday, 9 AM to 2 PM.
Willowsford Ramblings is a blog by Willowsford, a community of new single-family homes in Loudoun County, Northern Virginia.55 and older communities, active adult communities, adult communities, ashburn va new homes, Chantilly va new homes, Community Supported Agriculture, CSA, eat local, Farm to table, home communities, homes aldie va, homes for seniors, Loudoun County, main-level living, new build homes for sale, new home builders, new home communities, new home developments, northern virginia, over 55 communities, retirement communities, retirement living, senior independent living, senior living, Willowsford, willowsford conservancy, Willowsford Farm, willowsford va, Willowsford Virginia