Movement connects area farmers, consumers

Published 9:42 pm Tuesday, March 29, 2011

There’s a growing movement focused on taking agriculture back in time — back to the days when people bought most of their food fresh from somewhere near the place where it was grown or raised.

It’s often taken as an article of faith that the growth of agriculture as an industry has been a good thing for the world.

More people can be fed more cheaply today than ever before, and even the loss of American farmland to development has not diminished the nation’s ability to provide for itself.

But there’s a growing movement focused on taking agriculture back in time — back to the days when people bought most of their food fresh from somewhere near the place where it was grown or raised, when few, if any, chemicals were used in the agricultural process.

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Farming the old way is more expensive and less intensive, but a growing number of people — including some farmers — are convinced that it’s also healthier for the environment, for the farmers and for the people who consume the food that’s produced.

“The industrial type of farming system is not a sustainable system,” said Danny Byrum, who owns Batten Bay Farm in Carrollton with his wife Romayne. Farmers using chemical herbicides, insecticides and fertilizers have neglected to put organic matter back into the ground, he explained.

All of those chemicals harm the soil, harm the water and, ultimately, harm the people who eat the food that is harvested, he said.

“I think many of the health issues we have today are linked to the food system,” he said. “The more healthy we can eat — the more people can get to eating that food, which is good food — the healthier we’ll be,” Byrum added.

The Byrums have invested a lot into the philosophy behind the fresh food movement.

They work only five of the 10 acres on their Carrollton farm at any given time, and they use all-organic practices throughout the property, meaning, generally, no chemicals. What results are small yields of highly sought-after produce that they sell almost entirely at retail to a growing and loyal clientele.

On Saturday, the Byrums will share their experiences as members of a discussion panel following a screening of the film “Fresh” from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at James River Community Church, 8909 Eclipse Drive.

The film is being presented by Craig and Milissa Little, who own a Windsor business called Growing Green Acres. It will be the third time they’ve shown the film around the area, part of what has come to feel somewhat like a calling to them, according to Milissa.

“We just felt like we were supposed to start this business and reconnect people with the land,” she said. “I call it a business-slash-ministry.”

Milissa said most folks in America have come to expect ready availability of whatever food they want, whenever they want it. The result is that much of the nation’s produce is imported from countries without the same controls that exist in America.

Also, she said, continued use of chemicals on American crops, along with overproduction of the nation’s fields, has helped to reduce the nutritional value of the crops that come from those fields.

When folks are looking at the produce at the grocery store, she said, “It might look pretty, but it’s not always nutritious.”

“Fresh” aims to help people develop better, healthier food habits and to expose the bad habits that combine to threaten their own health and the health of the environment.

“’Fresh’ doesn’t just open your eyes, it really inspires you to change,” Milissa said.

Pick your farm

Folks in Suffolk have an ever-growing number of choices when it comes to family farms and community-supported agriculture options, which are at the heart of the new healthy food movement.

All of the following farms are located in Suffolk or very close by. Call ahead to each of the farms before visiting, as availability and hours are limited.

Batten Bay Farm

24545 Miller Lane,

Carrollton — 238-3334

Batten Bay Farm is a produce and cut-flower farm that uses natural and sustainable agricultural methods to grow crops. The farm uses compost for fertilizer and no chemical herbicides or pesticides. Spring crops include spinach, onions, beets, greens (kale, mustard & turnip), peas, radishes, lettuce, cabbage and broccoli. Summer crops include cucumber, summer squash, green beans, eggplant, tomatoes, sweet corn, okra, cantaloupes, onions, potatoes, peppers, zucchini, watermelons, carrots, radishes and greens. Fall crops include winter squash, summer squash, beets, leeks, collards, cabbage, sweet potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, onions, pumpkins, lettuce, okra, radishes and bok choy.

Carr Farms

28001 Walters Highwa,

Carrsville — 569-9533

Products include sweet corn, butterbeans, snaps, tomatoes, squash, watermelons, cantaloupes and cucumbers.

Clarke Farm

3833 Bruce Road,

Chesapeake — 484-6000

Products include fresh-picked tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, green beans, butter beans, sweet corn, collards, peppers and pumpkins.

Clayhill Farms

5165 Mineral Spring Road,

Suffolk — 613-3741

Products include watermelon, cantaloupe, sweet corn, Asian yard peas, collards, kale, turnips, snaps and butter beans.

Cotton Plains Farm, Inc.

696 Cherry Grove Road,

North, Suffolk — 255-4724

Weekly baskets are available in two sizes and include an assortment of fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit, depending on each week’s harvest. Prepaid subscription vegetable sales are available June-August.

Dutch Pond Farm

604 Dutch Road, Suffolk — 777-5605

Products include fresh eggs, assorted produce, flowers, herbs, baked goods and (soon) honey.

Edwards Farm

17298 Scotts Factory Road,

Smithfield — 357-4671

Products include a variety of summer and fall vegetables including sweet corn, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, eggplant, watermelons, cantaloupes, cabbage, brocolli, squash, onions, cabbage and more. Also fresh peaches, plums, and nectarines are available in July.

Faith Farms

2170 Joshua Lane, Suffolk — 620-8677

Pick-your-own strawberries and berries are available.

Full Quiver Farm

2801 Manning Road,

Suffolk — 539-5324

Products include poultry, eggs, beef and pork.

Golden Eagle Alpaca Farm

2505 Pittmantown Road,

Suffolk — 438-2997

Golden Eagle is an alpaca farm with some additions. There is a large garden, and the farm has peach trees and blueberries in season, along with beehives.

Green Pastures Fruit and Livestock Farm

1474 Copeland Road,

Suffolk — 925-0997

Products include peaches, eggs, peach preserves, vegetables and goat cheese. There are goats, baby chicks and pullets for sale, also.

Horton Family Farm

18598 Hortons Lane,

Windsor — 377-8655

Pre-picked strawberries are available.

Lilley Farms Strawberries

2800 Tyre Neck Road,

Chesapeake — 484-3448


Bennett’s Pasture Road,

Suffolk — 484-3448

Pick your own strawberries are available, with bucket provided. Pre-picked buckets are available as well.

Nuby Run Bees

19614 Orbit Road,

Windsor — 357-5810

Local honey, beeswax candles and ornaments are available, along with gourds.

Oliver Farms, LLC

18222 Longview Drive,

Smithfield — 255-4563

Products include Strawberries (late April-May); sweet corn (late June-July), butter beans, green beans, crowder peas, blueberries and fresh flowers. The store is located on the family farm at the old country store.

Shire Farms

17379 Woodland Drive,

Windsor — 255-4088

Products include honey, eggs, chicken, turkey, pork, beef, lamb, rabbit, duck and geese.

Windhaven Farm

17381 Pope Swamp Trail,

Windsor — 209-1095

Windhaven Farm offers all natural Angus beef (no hormones, no antibiotics), free-range pork, and country fresh eggs. Windhaven Farm is a family farm where cattle has been raised for more than 40 years. All beef comes from cattle born and raised on the farm, is raised without hormones or antibiotics and is grass-fed, grain-finished. The farm also offers free-range pork and country fresh eggs. Beef, pork and eggs may be purchased at the on-site market. All beef and pork products (i.e. steaks, ground beef, roasts, pork chops, sausage) are packaged individually, vacuum-sealed and frozen. Beef may be purchased in quarters, halves and whole, as well.

— Source: Virginia Department of Agriculture and Community Services