Our farm concept started in a very small apartment in DC, where we moved almost fifteen years ago; Mel grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania and had a small community garden plot near American University, where she was working and studying for her master's degree; Kevin was taking over the small kitchen and bathtub and stealing from the garden to experiment with would be called, very loosely, our first farm brews.
We moved to Fauquier County in 2012 and immediately began growing vegetables for farmers' markets and hops for local breweries. The home brewing continued on the side, and Melody's garden grew to produce not just for the markets, but also the CSA she started in 2015. It was also where we were joined by our two border collies, Zeus and Cascade, as well as a rescue sheep named Aggie, dropped off by a local extension agent and the face you may recognize from our logo.
In order to facilitate the farm brewery, we moved our farm from northeastern to southern Fauquier County in 2017, opening our 2.5 barrel brewhouse and small, on-site taproom. All of our produce and hops are grown on the property as well, and we've since added chickens and bee hives to our operation.
In 2019 we began working on a new building to be able to expand our farm-focused products beyond produce and beer, into fermented vegetables and other products from our field. We hope to open that space -- which includes a kitchen, expanded barrel aging space for beer, and event space for our community -- in 2020.
ABOUT THE FARM OPERATION
Our two-and-one-half acre field is the center of everything we do, and from the beginning we've focused on a small-scale, diverse operations that interact in a way that makes the soil and products both high quality and unique.
Our farm includes two acres of fruits, vegetables and herbs that feed our CSA members and provide a wide range of brewing ingredients for our on-site brewhouse. The field includes both annuals as well as a growing collection of native perennials that are inter-cropped to help provide stability and diversity to our field. We grow over 30 different types of heirloom and native varieties of produce, a long list of flowers, and each year increase the size of our orchard, which is made up of 50+ saplings.
We also grow roughly 1,000 hop plants in seven, 200-foot rows using organic practices. Our original farm included over 15 varieties of hops, of which we selected down to five for our current location: Cascade, Chinook, Zeus, Galena and Nugget. The current stock of hops were selected from our best performing plants at our original farm. The hops are 100% used in our on-site brewhouse.
Our team and members of the community keep a small number of hives on the property, providing pollinators for our produce as well as feeding on the flowers that make up our Cut Flower CSA. We are blessed to have several neighbors that also keep large numbers of hives, which combined with "wild" pollinators, do well to service our farm.
Our farm is also home to laying hens that use an old tow-behind trailer as their home base, eating bugs, fresh growth and some brewer's grain. While the chickens do produce some eggs, the main focus of having them on the farm is pest suppression and soil fertility. We move the trailer around the farm weekly to distribute their fertilizer.
Our farm sits on 21 total acres, with a little more than half of it new-growth woodland, mostly eastern red cedar. The native cedar is rot resistant and we harvest fallen trees for a wide range of infrastructure including all of our hops posts, future sheep-fencing, and even the parking divider and road signs. Additionally, our brewery is built in the "pole barn" style, with 100% of the supporting posts being cedar cut on-site.
We farm using mostly hand tools and, well, bare hands. We don't have a tractor, but do use our two-wheel BCS for some light tilling and bed-making, as well as other ongoing experiments around cover cropping and weed cultivation. We make good use of both classic and clever tools developed by other like-minded farmers including the broad fork, wheel hoe and finger weeding tools. All of our produce is harvested fresh for either human or brewhouse consumption, with cleaning and processing required happening on our farm.
OUR FARMING PHILOSOPHY
We grow all of our produce and orchard plants with a focus on soil health, product nutrients, and environmental diversity. In practice this means a couple of basic things: we never spray chemicals to kill bugs or weeds, we never use inorganic fertilizers, and we plant as wide a range of crops and varietals as we can.
Soil is cared for by keeping it living. With that in mind we focus on minimal tillage, adding organic composts from nearby animal farmers, and keeping things growing in it, either as part of our production or via cover crops. We also hope to continue to integrate animals into our operation, which keeps diversity up and improves fertility.
We believe working within the boundaries of our climate will result in the most nutrient-dense food, and for that reason we plant from as much native stock as possible. Much of this is heirloom -- another way of saying varietals that have been selected to be flavorful and bountiful in our specific part of the Piedmont.
We work hard to make sure our farm can produce for us in the long term, and keep us healthy and energized both because we're in it all the time, and also eating from it on a daily basis.