Buy direct from a farm. It’s the best way to live healthy. In the past 20 years, the proliferation of farmers markets have made this much easier. Depending on where you live, you might be able to zip over to a Saturday morning market and buy from many different farms, gathered all in one place. You can meet the farmers, ask them questions, and select from a variety of available foods.
But there’s another option: farm stores and farm stands. They are certainly not a new concept. There does, however, seem to be a proliferation of them, not just in number but in quality of experience. We’ve identified 15 in Virginia that we think are definitely a quality experience, and well worth the effort. We say “effort” because few of them are as convenient as your local farmers market. Indeed, many are way off the beaten path. We think this makes them all the more alluring, given the natural beauty that often surrounds them.
The most important quality these stores and stands all have in common is the superiority of their food. Not all farm stores and stands are created equal by any means. Similar to the food industry in general, there’s plenty of masquerading and false marketing in the “farm store business.” Anyone can pretty much open a market and call it a farm store.
There’s no fabrication here. Every farm on this list is producing the highest quality food using the principles of regenerative agriculture. We like to call it reganic food. Only one of these farms holds an organic certification. It’s so important for consumers to understand that most of the highest quality food available to them from small family farms is not certified organic. Some have other certifications, but many farms choose to pursue none at all, due to the cost and the time that’s required. When it comes to the production of meat, organic certification can be particularly misleading. It does not require the farms to follow the true principles of regenerative agriculture, including management intensive grazing, pasture rotation, carbon sequestration, and the commitment to building healthy soil. All these farms are devoted to these very principles.
There are a few other things that tie the farms on this list together. With one exception, all the stores or stands are located on the farms themselves. This is important because of transparency. That’s a word that is nearly absent in the food industry, much to the demise of our health and well-being. Even at a farmers market, there’s a lack of transparency. You’re taking the farmer’s word without seeing the evidence. There are vendors at many farmers markets who are purporting to sell a certain quality of food that is just not accurate.
When you visit a farm, the evidence is often before your very eyes. This is particularly important with livestock so you can see how they live and eat. We realize – probably to the chagrin of some people – that most of the places on our list are focused on meat. There are two reasons for this. One is practical. Meat can be frozen and kept for longer periods in a “farm store,” which are usually open year-round. “Farm stands” are usually more associated with produce, are fewer in number, and are seasonal. Managing crops after they’re picked and keeping them fresh can be challenging. Produce farms often prefer selling their crops direct to consumers through CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) memberships. In a CSA consumers can purchase shares of a farm’s crops throughout the growing season, usually on a weekly basis. Some of the farms we’ve listed below do have CSAs as well.
The other reason our list is meat-heavy is eduction. We believe meat can and should be a part of a healthy American diet, but the perceptions are so wildly distorted and dysfunctional. Nearly every study you see about the “harmful effects” of meat disregard farms practicing regenerative agriculture. It seems the entire meat industry has been swept into the factory farming abyss. There is a vast difference between factory meat production and true regenerative agriculture. Visit any one of the farms below that raise livestock and we think you will be enlightened.
This is not an exhaustive list. There are so many great farms out there and we’ll keep hitting the road to find them. The 15 below are in alphabetical order. They have a variety of hours, which we won’t talk about in the summaries. You can check the hours of the individual stores/stands on Foodwaze.com or by going to a farm’s website.
Free Union Grass Farm (Free Union)
Free Union Grass Farm is in Albemarle County about 20 minutes northwest of Charlottesville. It’s run by Erica Hellen and Joel Slezak. At their farm store, you can purchase their 100% grass-fed beef, forested pork, heritage breed Freedom Ranger meat chickens, pastured chicken eggs, and pastured duck. Some people might get confused by the name of the farm, but it’s actually very meaningful. It emphasizes the philosophy of all regenerative livestock farms, which is to build vigorous soil and pasture as the foundation of producing healthy meat products.
Forrest Green Farm (Louisa)
Forrest Green Farm sits along the I-64 corridor east of Charlottesville. It is run by Rob and Krista Rahm. The farm combines a diversity of plants and animals. They grow vegetables and herbs and sell a huge variety of plants and seedlings. Their flower gardens are also magnificent. For livestock, they raise 100% grass-fed beef, and chickens for meat and eggs. The Rahms are also intensely dedicated to food education. They conduct a long list of classes, workshops, and events on everything from “whole living” to mushroom cultivation. Be sure to check out their website for more information… or better yet, stop by their colorful farm store!
Heritage Hollow Farms (Sperryville)
The town of Sperryville is in Rappahannock County at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the northern third of the State. It’s an area that is making an earnest commitment to regenerative agriculture, and Heritage Hollow Farms is at the forefront. It’s run by Mike and Molly Peterson. They raise 100% grass-fed beef and lamb, as well as pastured and forest-fed pork. Molly is also a professional photographer, whose farm photos can be seen in books as well as on the walls of some restaurants in the area. The farm store, like the rest of Sperryville, is charming and inviting. It’s technically not on the farm, but immediately adjacent in the River District Arts building. We’re quite certain you will be hearing Mike and Molly Peterson’s names in connection to real food for a long-time to come.
Highland Orchard Farm (Covesville)
Covesville is in southern Albemarle County about 20 minutes from Charlottesville. If you are anywhere in this area you MUST visit Highland Orchard Farm on a Saturday afternoon when their store is open. The beautiful 900+ acre property is owned by Jonathan Gilliland and managed by Fred and Amber Lyssy. Since coming to the farm in 2014, the Lyssys have developed a first-class holistic livestock and land stewardship blueprint. They raise and sell a selection of grass-fed and pastured meats including 100% grass-fed beef, lamb and goat, forested pork, pastured ducks and pastured heritage breed meat chickens. And yes, there is an orchard on the farm too. Watch for a more in-depth profile of Highland Orchard coming to the Foodwaze blog soon.
J & L Green Farm (Edinburg)
J & L Green Farm is in the Shenandoah Valley about midway between Harrisonburg and Winchester. It gets its name from the owners, husband-and-wife team Jordan and Laura Green. They raise and sell 100% grass-fed beef and lamb, as well as pastured pork and poultry. The farm is west of I-81 and takes a “little getting to.” But who doesn’t like a beautiful drive through the scenic Shenandoah Valley? Their farm store is really well done… very classy and homey.
Keenbell Farm (Rockville)
Homey is a word that definitely applies to the Keenbell Farm store. In fact, just last month they opened a new store on the property in the original farm house built in the 1950s by Joe and Kathleen Isbell. They are the first of four generations of Isbells who now live and work on the farm. Keenbell is a true testament to regenerative agriculture. In addition to raising livestock, including 100% grass-fed beef, pastured pork and poultry, they also grow heritage grains using organic practices. They’ll be featured in an upcoming Foodwaze blog about grains in Virginia.
Lakota Ranch (Remington)
This farm store definitely requires a drive off the beaten path, but once you arrive you might find it hard to leave. It’s really well done. Lakota Ranch is off Route 15/29 north of Culpeper. The farm, run by the Engh family, specializes in raising and breeding Certified Devon cattle, a heritage breed well-suited to grass-feeding and finishing. They also raise and sell pork and eggs. You can also shop for non-food items like candles, soaps, and high-fiber clothing. If you’ve got extra time, you can plop in one of the chairs on the deck outside and enjoy the spectacular view. Like we said, you might not want to leave.
Moving Meadows Farm (Culpeper)
This farm store is the only one on our list that’s not right on the farm. Again, we value the transparency that on-farm stores offer. But there’s also something to be said for authentic farm stores that bring convenience to the consumer. Moving Meadows Farm is about five miles outside of downtown Culpeper and is run by Wally and Amy Hudson and their family. The store downtown opened in 2013 and showcases the pasture-raised meats from their farm and well as a few other local farms. There’s also a bakery at the store where they mill their own flour using organic grains.
New Earth Farm (Virginia Beach)
New Earth Farm is located near the Pungo community just south of Virginia Beach. We spotlighted the farm as part of another blog we wrote recently about Commune restaurant in Virginia Beach. New Earth Farm is run by “Farmer John” Wilson and a staff that keeps busy with a diversity of crops including vegetables, herbs, fruits, and nuts. They also raise laying hens on pasture and grass-fed lamb. What makes this farm really soar is their devotion to consumer education. They have a separate facility where they conduct classes and programs on everything from composting, to beekeeping, to cooking with whole foods.
Polyface Farm (Swoope)
For some people, Polyface Farm might not need an explanation. Joel Salatin, who runs the farm, is world renown for his advocacy of regenerative agriculture. But even many of those who know about Polyface, have not made a visit. Do so! It’s essential for anyone who wants to understand the principles of grass-based farming and rotational grazing. Their farm store stocks all of their grass-fed, pasture raised meats, as well as the many books that Salatin has authored over the years. We’ve talked about transparency already in this blog, and Polyface is a farm that embodies it. Be sure to check their website for information about self-guided and guided tours.
Potomac Vegetable Farms (Vienna & Purcellville)
Potomac Vegetable Farms has its roots back in the 1960s, when founder Hiu Newcomb first starting farming in Northern Virginia. Since then the farm has earned a stellar reputation as a leading advocate of ecological farming throughout the region. At one time they were certified organic, but have forgone it and now use the word Ecoganic to describe their beyond-organic practices. They have two locations, open seasonally. Their original farm stand is on Route 7 in Fairfax County. Farther west, they have a stand near Purcellville in Loudoun County. At both locations they farm right on-site. The Fairfax farm is unique in the way it has been enveloped by residential development over the years.
Riverstone Organic Farm (Floyd)
A drive to Floyd County does not disappoint. Not only is it spectacularly scenic, but the area is staunchly committed to ecological farming. Riverstone Organic Farm is a perfect example. It is the only certified organic farm on our list. The certification applies to their large vegetable production. They also raise non-certified meat, including 100% grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured pork, and pastured eggs. The farm is owned by Woody and Jackie Crenshaw and managed by Kat Johnson. In addition to visiting the farm store, check out some of the fun events they have on weekends.
Smith Meadows Farm (Berryville)
Smith Meadows Farm is located in the northwest corner of the state near Winchester. This family farm has its roots back in the early 1800s. It’s been in the family since and is currently headed up by Forrest Pritchard. He is a champion of regenerative agriculture who speaks widely on the topic and has written two best-selling books about it. At their nifty farm store you can purchase their 100% grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured pork, and eggs. They also make baked goods. If you find it hard to leave, you can book a room at their bed-and-breakfast, which is in a historic home on the property.
Wayside Produce (Dayton)
Wayside Produce is a farm stand on a small family farm just a few minutes south of Harrisonburg. It’s run by father-and-son duo Alex and Andrew Mason, along with Andrew’s wife Elda. They grow delicious chemical-free fruits and vegetables, on display at their stand from April to November. Their efforts typify a growing dedication to ecological farming throughout the Shenandoah Valley. Hopefully those efforts can reclaim the upper hand over factory farming there.
Whiffletree Farm (Warrenton)
Located just southwest of Warrenton, Whiffletree Farm is accessible and engaging. As you approach their farm store, the farm’s pastures unfold before your eyes in a scenic panorama. There’s definitely no problem with transparency at Whiffletree. The farm is owned by Jess and Liz Straight and managed with help from Jonathan Elliott. Jesse and Jonathan are both graduates of the University of Virginia. For sale at their farm store is 100% grass-fed beef, forested pork, and pastured chickens, turkey, and eggs. They also sell an awesome variety of other natural, locally-made products, such as ferments, stocks, and baked goods.
Do you know any other awesome farm stores or farm stands in your community? Please comment below or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that Foodwaze does not accept advertising or any other fees from food businesses, nor do we participate in affiliate programs on our blog with any food businesses. All food businesses referenced in this blog are ones we have chosen to identify based on the merits of their practices, in accordance with the principles and values we advocate on Foodwaze. All businesses and farms have been visited by a member of the Foodwaze team to verify their practices, and none have paid to be included in this blog.