On Saturday, September 28th Real Local RVA hosted its 4th annual Farm Tour. This is one of our most celebrated yearly events, and we truly enjoy the opportunity to bring people together for a day celebrating local food and farming.
It was a warm fall day in Ashland, VA where we began the tour at Woodside Farms at Chickahominy Falls. Woodside Farms is a 10-acre farm anchoring the Chickahominy Falls community. This four-season farm grows a curated mix of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Woodside Farms works in conjunction with nature, utilizing farming methods such as cover cropping, integrated pest management, inter-planting, and composting. By mimicking the natural state from which crops originated, they are able to grow without the use of pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides. Farmed by Bryan Aycock, his wife Meredith, and Kara Siewers this beautiful property was enjoyed by all. Bryan led the first part of the tour, taking guests through the new barn, around the orchard, and past the historic home situated on the property. In just its first year of existence the farm has made amazing leaps and bounds towards being able to feed the growing community surrounding it. Bryan shared their plans for a CSA, community workshares, and future events to be held on site.
As we moved towards the main field, Farmer Kara took over the tour, discussing planting, soil health, and crop rotations. Guests enjoyed time in the field with the vegetables and gorgeous flowers. They are truly doing their part to bring a wide variety of pollinator plants to the property.
The tour at Woodside ended inside the barn with a delicious snack prepared by Chef Jenny Tremblay West of Mise en Place Cooking School. Mise En Place is Richmond’s premier culinary center, specializing in creative cooking classes, team building events, private culinary functions & one of a kind wine programs. Jenny took a variety of vegetables and herbs from the farm and served an Asian Collard Green Salad. Guests also enjoyed tomato sauce fresh from Woodside Farms with bread from the Flour Garden Bakery.
After a short drive up the road, guests arrived at Harlow Ridge Farm for a tour of a working livestock farm by Farmer Chris Stem. Harlow Ridge Farm specializes in pasture raised pork, beef, goat and lamb raised on NON-GMO grains produced in Hanover County. Harlow Ridge Farm raises Berkshire and Tamworth Pigs, Black Angus Cattle, Red Sex Link Hens and a variety of meat goats and sheep. Chris also co-owns Ashland Meat Co., a small market in Ashland stocked full of local products and fresh meats.
After a brief history from Chris, guests walked down the road to learn about the importance of humanely raised livestock. They met pigs, goats, sheep, and viewed the cattle from afar. Chris talked about why his family purchased the property, why they decided to dive into agro-tourism with their new event facility, and his plans for a sustainable business model.
Once the tour was finished, the guests were welcomed into Oakdale, the brand new event facility on the property owned by Chris and his family. Nestled in 100 acres of farmland, this premier event facility is a unique barn venue with a modern, upscale feel. Surrounded by an intimate, natural setting, with panoramic views of farmland, ponds and pastures, Oakdale is an ideal venue for gatherings of all kinds. We were honored to be the first event in the new space, and after a long day of tours guests enjoyed food and drink catered by Ashland Meat Co. Beverage highlights included beer from Hardywood and local Virginia wines from the Virginia Wine Academy.
After dinner, the guests enjoyed a presentation by Joel Salatin, well known farmer at Polyface Farm and champion of the sustainable agriculture movement. Joel covered the topic of “Can Biological Farming Feed the World?” Joel is an engaging speaker, and wonderful entertainer. He took us into a deep dive on the history of compost and the importance of maintaining a respectful relationship with the land. He left us with three simple but very important points:
Get in your kitchen
Grow something living
Meet your Farmer
It was a great day celebrating community, food and farming, and if you missed this year’s event, we hope you’ll join us next time.
Thank you to our sponsors and community partners for making the day possible: Oakdale, Ellwood Thompson’s, Chickahominy Falls, C&F Bank, Manry Rawls Insurance, Keller Williams|The Egan Team, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Good Foods Grocery, Libbie Market, The Freckled Flower Farm, and Tisha Lyn Photography.