Loudoun County

Buy Fresh Buy Local and Making Connections

Since 2006, PEC’s Buy Fresh Buy Local chapters have provided free marketing opportunities for local farmers through our annual guides and have connected multitudes of families to the fresh, local products grown and raised in the Piedmont. In 2018, PEC staff conducted interviews and focus groups with our Buy Fresh Buy Local partners and released local food producer and community surveys to identify barriers within the Piedmont’s local food system. These surveys help inform how PEC’s programming can tackle those barriers and create opportunities to strengthen local agriculture around the region

More than a third of our partners responded that the guide provides significant promotion for their products. Many also cited one of the consistent challenges as advertising products and expanding their product buyer base. Issues with pricing, finding time to develop new market relationships and connect with community members hinder farmers’ ability to grow or fully establish their business.

Our surveys gleaned information on how consumers use the annual Buy Fresh Buy Local guide and their local food purchasing habits. Most consumers received their guide in the mail (57%) and are using it to find area farmers markets and restaurants and retailers that use local products. When asked what would encourage them to purchase more local food, it came down to convenience and information.

PEC has taken this information to develop events and programming to fill in these marketing gaps. We have hosted local food showcases, buyer and seller mixers that allow local producers to connect with a range of buyers—from small café owners to public school food service directors and national grocery chain produce buyers.

In the spring of 2019, PEC launched the refreshed BuyLocalVirginia.org website that will provide a much needed online presence for our chapter partners.

New Digital Collaboration

Piedmont Environmental Council logo

Virginia Cooperative Extension Logo

Market Maker Logo

To enhance this online hub for local food information, PEC is excited to announce our partnership with Virginia Tech and MarketMaker. MarketMaker is nationwide and centers around a virtual information-sharing platform that brings fresh and local food to consumers. PEC’s well-known and growing Buy Fresh Buy Local chapters bring an already established network of local food producers, while MarketMaker provides online market connections that will strengthen local food market purchasing.

This collaboration targets local food producers (i.e. farmers, value-added producers, specialty beverage makers) and local food buyers (i.e. chefs, grocery store managers, institutional food service directors, wholesalers, aggregators and distributors). Through this partnership, PEC is supporting development of a streamlined, centralized state-wide local food inventory that provides food producers and buyers access to Buy Fresh Buy Local branding, Virginia Grown branding and the MarketMaker online connection platform all within the same database.

Willowhawk Farm

Willowhawk Farm

by Brittany Croll

As you pull into the gravel driveway leading to Willow Hawk Farm, the sign reads “Caution: animals at play.” This intentionally small operation is a labor of love for Ashley and Greg who own the 18-acre farm.

Ashley described herself as a “fiber person” who wanted to try raising sheep. Together she and Greg have embarked on a journey that now includes producing roving (not twisted) yarn typically used by hand spinners, natural and dyed finished (twisted) yarn, fleeces, lamb meat and free-range eggs. The pastured-raised sheep are mostly Romney, which is a “long wool” breed with mild flavored meat. Willow Hawk’s flock averages 30-35 ewes, with new lambs each year. In addition to the sheep and their two guardian Great Pyrenees, they have about 18 chickens to produce the eggs and several farm cats that serve as the official greeters.

In addition to the sustainability ethos that Greg and Ashley adhere to, what really sets Willow Hawk Farm apart is their commitment to community. For the past 17 years Ashley and Greg have served as a host farm for the Temple Hall Non-Owners Sheep Club, which is a Loudoun County 4-H program. As part of this program, the group will learn and experience all things about raising sheep and compete in the Loudoun County Fair in the summer. Many of the kids will participate for multiple years becoming part of Ashley and Greg’s extended family.

To experience Willow Hawk Farm firsthand, attend their Spring and Fall Farm Days. Ashley conducts spinning and dying demos, enthusiastically explains the in-depth hand dying process, the young lambs are in pens for visitors to pet, and the 4-H kids provide tours highlighting the bank barn which is built into the hillside on the property. They also make sure that the tractor is out for visitors to sit on, which is usually a favorite activity.

When asked what is one thing Greg and Ashley would want people to know about their farm, they replied nearly simultaneously, “We have happy lambs!”

Bee’s Wing Farm

Bee’s Wing Farm

by Mitra Kashani

Everyone needs a little soul food, and that’s just what Bee’s Wing Farm provides! Nestled in the valleys of Bluemont, Virginia, Bee’s Wing Farm is a newly blossoming flower farm owned and operated by Chelsea Belle Graves.

Chelsea is a young and hopeful farmer with over ten years of experience tending to the earth. With the help of her parents and husband, Chelsea brought Bee’s Wing Farm to life at her childhood home in Bluemont in 2014, and now grows over 40 varieties of flowers, berries, herbs, and greenery, and creates hand-curated bouquets for every occasion.

Originally, Chelsea had aspirations to become a vegetable grower, but later realized that with flowers, “… I was nourishing a different part of people. I tell folks we’re selling soul food…they recognize that their eyes and their heart need to feast on that. I got over not growing carrots anymore.”

Bee’s Wing Farm uses all organic and gentle practices in their growing, stating “in an effort to care for and respect the land we do not use any synthetic pesticides or herbicides. We know that the soil is the soul of our farm and care for it through cover cropping, compost and integrating our livestock and cropping systems.”

The farm also houses a walk-in cooler, allowing customers the opportunity to experience flowers that are picked at their peak freshness. There are a variety of ways to experience the blooms of Bee’s Wing Farm: as a bride or groom on your wedding day, as a CSA share member where you receive a fresh bouquet every week, at a local farmers market (this summer, the farm will be tabeling at Reston and Berrysville farmers markets) or at a local wholesale shop, like Jenny’s Salon or Petite LouLou.

As Chelsea mentioned, “When you’re choosing local, you’re supporting people living the dream, helping them sustain this life whether its through a $2 stem at a farmers market or a CSA share.”

Goat Cheese Egg Melt

Goat Cheese Egg Melt

from Catoctin Creamery

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 ounces of goat cheese

Instructions

Beat together 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon of milk and a little salt and pepper.

In a small pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add a clove of fresh garlic pressed and 1 tablespoon of basil once cooked a little, maybe 20 seconds (Note: can add any other vegetables or cooked meat that you like at this time – I like to add a little cooked ham most of the time)

Then add the egg and milk mixture above.

Once bubbly but when the eggs are still liquid, add 2 ounces of chevre goat cheese, and mix together. Once the eggs are fully cooked, take off the heat and eat!

Piedmont Beef Study

Piedmont Beef Study

By Kristen Markley with Health Care Without Harm and Jessica Palmer with Piedmont Environmental Council

Over the course of 2019, Health Care Without Harm and The Piedmont Environmental Council will be working together on a project to assess market access for sustainably produced Virginia Piedmont beef.

To get started, Health Care Without Harm will conduct an assessment of the institutional demand for the product. The assessment will focus on the collection of information from hospitals, colleges, and universities in Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, and West Virginia.

Meanwhile, PEC will conduct a supply-side assessment to provide an in-depth look at current and potential beef-sector production and gauge farmer capacity for expansion and interest in selling to a captive wholesale market. The study will span the area from around Charlottesville to Loudoun County.

When paired together, the projects will highlight possibilities for institutional purchasing programs and possibly provide a pathway to expand and support Piedmont beef sector businesses. If you are a beef producer in the Piedmont region, please consider taking PEC’s survey: https://www.pecva.org/beef.

Let There Be Fruits & Veggies

Let There Be Fruits & Veggies

By Paula Combs

Food brings people together. But healthy food is sometimes hard to come by. Despite Loudoun County’s reputation as a wealthy community, a surprising number of children in the county live in households with limited access to healthy food. The consequences can be stark for these children, as their development, ability to learn and overall health is directly related to the quality of their diet.

The Piedmont Environmental Council’s Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows was founded with two ideas in mind: to connect residents to Loudoun’s vital agricultural economy and to provide locally grown fruits and vegetables for its food-insecure families.

Now, it is time for those ideas to blossom, or rather… to be planted.

Starting this spring, the northwest corner of Roundabout Meadows will be the hub of activity. We have eight acres surrounded with deer fencing, and on approximately two of those acres, PEC’s community farm manager, Dana Melby, will work with volunteers to begin planting broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes, radishes, beets, turnips and collards, from mid-March to the beginning of April. Then, after the last frost, crops such as tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, green beans, summer squash, watermelon and cantaloupe will be added.

“We will also be implementing cover crops to help improve our soil quality and increase the soil’s nutrition,” Dana explains. “Cover crops improve soil health, as well as attract pollinators and beneficial insects. They also help reclaim land that was previously fallow, allowing it to go back into production.”

The fruit and vegetable crops at the Community Farm were selected with the help of our partner, Loudoun Hunger Relief (LHR), who identified the needs of the local community.

Feeding America reports that approximately 13,390 Loudoun County residents live in food-insecure households, defined by a chronic lack of access to sufficient nutritious food, in 2018. LHR serves many individuals and families in need, including over 1,000 families living without permanent shelter in the county. Nearly half of the people LHR helps are children who lack sufficient, nutritious food. To date, over one million meals have been distributed through the organization!

To address food insecurity and combat high rates of child obesity, diabetes and hypertension, local anti-hunger efforts are increasingly focusing on providing more produce. PEC plans to donate 100 percent of the Community Farm’s fruits and vegetables to LHR and other food pantries in the county.


“With the tremendous help of our volunteers, we will be able to deliver fresh food to those who need it most.”

Dana Melby, PEC Community Farm Manager

“Loudoun Hunger Relief is thrilled to be partnering with the Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows. Produce is so important to good health and farm fresh produce is even better. We’re excited to provide locally grown, fresh produce to our neighbors in need,” says Jennifer Montgomery, Executive Director of Loudoun Hunger Relief.

The Community Farm will engage volunteers to help produce local food, which will have a meaningful impact on healthy food access in Loudoun. The long-term goal is to scale up production and volunteer programming over the next 5 years.

“I’m so excited for all that is to come this growing season,” says Dana. “With the tremendous help of our volunteers, we will be able to deliver fresh food to those who need it most.”


Interested in Volunteering at PEC’s Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows?

Help us with planting and harvesting healthy food for Loudoun residents in need! Previous experience is welcomed but not required, as on-site training will be provided.

Be prepared to work outside in variable weather conditions, get your hands dirty while doing a good deed, and learn about your local agriculture community. All ages are welcome, but children must be accompanied by an adult at all times. Check the calendar on our website for upcoming volunteer opportunities and events.

If you are interested in volunteering, contact PEC’s Community Farm manager, Dana Melby, at [email protected] or (540) 347-2334 ext. 7068, or visit https://www.pecva.org/farm