My Whiffletree Farm Tour
If you had told me even just five years ago that I would be writing a blog post introducing you to a local farm I would have laughed. It is funny how small frequent lifestyle changes will develop into such big transformations over time.
The more I learn about real food and farming practices the more I realize that the grocery store was just not going to get me the best quality of food I was looking for (even at Whole Foods). I wanted to buy directly from the sources themselves, support my local farmer and know exactly how my food is being raised.
When I first learned about the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), the closest chapter to me was not all that close and I had my own struggles trying to find quality, nutrient-dense food sources closer to me. This got me thinking about all the folks closer to my neck of the woods and how they were finding good sources of local properly raised foods. So I decided to take on the role of the local chapter leader to serve my community and it has definitely been a rewarding experience. Additionally, the amount of information that I have learned from the WAPF has been so valuable in my quest to get healthier, teach truth, simplify my life and live better. Update: I am no longer chapter leader due to time constraints but still fully support the organization.
A few weeks ago I was contacted by a local farmer, Jesse Straight of Whiffletree Farm in Warrenton, VA who informed me about his farm and all that it produces. He inquired if I would add him to my local resource list so in my attempt to keep my list as an A+ resource for my local peeps I needed to check things out before saying yes. Over the years, I have found that some food producers/farms that contact me are trying to do the right things when it comes to food production but on the scale of good, better and best they get the good or even the better. Well I want the best and only the best available on my list friends!
Farmer Jesse asked me if I would like to come out to the farm for a tour. Naturally I was all over this one because this is one of the coolest things this city girl could experience. I took a tour of my current farm, Polyface Farm, in Swoope, VA (just outside Staunton, VA) a few years ago and it changed my entire view on food, healing and health. So the food geek that I am excitedly laced up my Timberland boots and ventured down to Warrenton.
It was a cool and rainy spring day and I couldn’t believe the place that I was introduced to that day. It was much more than I had expected. The lush green pastures that held happy cows and a mobile hen house was a happy sight to see. If you don’t know already, cows and chickens should co-habitate on the same land and be moved regularly to ensure the land is fertilized appropriately. This also ensures that the animals always have new ground/grass to be nourished on which results in healthier animals and higher nutrition values of the meat and eggs. And needless to say creating happier, stress free animals and a more sustainable ecological system that simply put, just works for all parties involved!
It was such a quiet little place and very quickly I forgot that I was still in the hustle bustle of Northern Virginia. I followed the little white wooden sign that said Farm Store and got out of my truck. Jesse met me and we started off. I had a ton of questions and he had a ton of answers. No awkward silence at any point in my hour and a half visit as we had a ton to chat about.
What I quickly learned about Farmer Jesse was that he loves what he does. I mean he is very passionate about farming and providing good food to help people live healthy. Working 13-15 hour days over his 82 acre farm provides him with a ton of purpose that he lacked in his last career. And with a growing family of now 5 children (welcome to the world Jonah!), he and his wife Liz are living the dream that many people only think of much less ever act on.
As we walked (and Jesse walks fast!) to the barn he told me about how he had been inspired by Wendell Berry and Joel Salatin to become a farmer at the same time pointing out from a distance where the younger pigs and piglets had recently been moved to (this moving of the animals is called rotational grazing). They have a very low stress environment and reside in/near wooded and pastured areas with access to shade and a wallow to keep them cool. With the amount of space Whiffletree allows its pigs they certainly get plenty of exercise wandering around which was definitely a concern of mine as a personal trainer J I don’t think some of my clients move as much as some of those pigs were, just kidding, not really. I have to admit, I instantly got the craving for bacon when we were in this area of the farm. Can you say Pavlov’s dog? I think I have a problem.
So we moved into the barn which was my favorite part of the whole tour as there were so many new baby chicks that had just moved onto the farm. They were so freakin’ cute and were “tanning” under the heat lamps to stay warm. They merrily chirped away and ran about when the barn door opened where I could see that some were snacking, others sleeping and still others wondering what in the world was going on. Kind of like people, it was awesome. They were certainly the happiest little chicks I’ve ever seen and very well cared for as they laid on their clean, warm and fluffy nesting areas.
In the barn I met Matt the Apprentice and encouraged him to go to Virginia Tech (duh) as he commented on my VT hat and how he is considering going to their agricultural school. I remember feeling really happy that there are still young men that want to get involved in what may appear to be an industry with not a lot of interest to the younger generations. Although Farmer Jesse does have email and a cell phone so who knows what Matt’s generation of farmers will do 🙂 I mean Farmer Jesse has his own Facebook page where he updates the whole world on the happenings at WF. Facebooking farmers, love it.
We continued on to see more pigs followed by the long walk through tall green grass to the chickens and cows suburban location on the farm. Jesse showed me how he moves the chickens (rotational grazing) to ensure they always have fresh grass to hang out in and to ensure the soil is properly taken care of as well. Happy chickens and happy land!
After the tour, Jesse showed me the Whiffletree Farm store and specifically described all of the products and partners’ products that he sells in his store. He reminded me that the difference in real foodies and hard core real foodies is a freezer. I couldn’t agree more which is why my hubs and I saved for A LONG TIME to pay for a commercial freezer. It pays you back!
Of course I was prepared to shop so I stocked up on a pork shoulder (which I made last week and was awesome), pork sausage (OMG, yum), ground beef, homemade applesauce, lip balm, Laconiko olive oil, kombucha (yum), homemade lard soap, wild salmon, bone broth (yet another duh) and two sprouted grain cookies (for the hubs) to test and see if they made the cut…they did.
Whiffletree also offers chickens (which I currently have 9 in my freezer so didn’t need to bring another home), eggs, turkeys and gift certificates! They make monthly NOVA deliveries all over the region. The locations and times can also be found on their webpage.
So in summary, I fell in love with this little place entirely the moment I bit into that pork shoulder. I mean let’s face it, the food is the product and even though the presentation, the owner, the raising and the grazing are all in line with the right practices it’s the food that will bring me back. But after the experience that I had I can honestly say that it is also the farmer, the land, the animals and the feeling I get that I am doing something so good for my community, my family and my health by opting to buy from the farm. The fact that Whiffletree Farm is my new local go to farm kind of goes without saying.