How to start a sustainable farm
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Health care background
Near the small town of Burkeville, Virginia, sits Waverly Farms, 238 acres of natural and sustainable farmland owned by Stuart and Patti Rosenberg. Before buying the property in 2006, the couple had never farmed. Patti had been in the corporate health care environment, and Stuart is still the CEO of a Harvard Medical branch.
Stuart, however, had spent childhood summers on his grandparents’ dairy farm and decided farming would keep him from getting bored.Date Published: March 6, 2015Date Updated: April 1, 2015
The Rosenbergs launched their adventure with goats. They liked goats and knew they would be easy to handle. They raise Spanish and Savannah goats, kidding twice a year.Date Published: March 6, 2015Date Updated: April 1, 2015
Next, they bought a few calves to slow-grow on their pastures, selling the beef locally. After that, they added 100 hens for eggs and then some American Guinea Hogs. They also have a few horses and llamas.Date Published: March 6, 2015Date Updated: April 1, 2015
When it came time to plant crops the first spring, Patti decided to go natural. Waverly Farms does not use any pesticides or herbicides on crops or pastures. “Our goal is to be a good steward, to treat the land sustainably and improve it while we’re here,” says Patti. “We don’t deplete the soil, but add to it.” Animal manure, excess crops, cover crops and spoiled hay provide rich compost each year that is applied to pastures and gardens. The result is clean, healthy, safe food that the Rosenbergs sell locally through their CSA (community supported agriculture) program.Date Published: March 6, 2015Date Updated: April 1, 2015
Their CSA boxes are in high demand. “People really do appreciate getting a share of whatever we harvest each week,” says Patti. Waverly Farms has about 50 people that receive CSA boxes during the summer. That number drops off a bit during the winter. “They want fresh food and support the way we do things,” Patti says.
The boxes started out with vegetables and eggs, but have expanded. “This year we added a protein CSA share, which has been amazingly popular,” says Patti. “We give them whatever we think they need of our pigs and cows and tell them how to cook everything.”Date Published: March 6, 2015Date Updated: April 1, 2015
Inspiring young farmers
With all of this extra work, the Rosenbergs count on volunteers, interns, local residents and apprentices for help. “We find people who we think would enjoy being here, learn a lot, and chip in,” Patti says. Their two daughters and families often visit the farm and help, as well.
The Rosenbergs hope to increase their production on a larger scale and to be an inspiration to young farmers. “Our mission is to produce food for local people and also to train future farmers,” Patti says.Date Published: March 6, 2015Date Updated: April 1, 2015
Benefits of being natural
Staying natural has proved to work for Waverly Farms. “I thought we’d have lower production, but we don’t,” says Patti. “I thought the vegetables would be smaller or wilted and they’re not. It’s amazing how easy it is and less expensive to be natural.”Date Published: March 6, 2015Date Updated: April 1, 2015
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