GO­ING NAT­U­RAL

HERE’S HOW ONE COU­PLE STARTED A SUS­TAIN­ABLE FARM.

Successful Farming - - IRRIGATION INSIDER -

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. Both had worked in the cor­po­rate health care in­dus­try. Stu­art, how­ever, had spent child­hood sum­mers and hol­i­days on his grand­par­ents’ dairy farm and was al­ways drawn to farm­ing and be­ing ac­tive out­doors.

Get­ting Goats

The Rosen­bergs launched their ad­ven­ture with goats. They raise Span­ish and Sa­van­nah goats, kid­ding twice a year. 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.

Bee­keep­ing was their next project. They keep bee­hives at their cousin’s place and sell the honey. When neigh­bors find bee­hives, they of­ten call the Rosen­bergs to see if they would like the hive.

“The bees are fab­u­lous,” says Patti. “Honey is a won­der­ful prod­uct. You don’t have to cook it or clean it or weed it.”

When it came time to plant crops the first spring, Patti de­cided to go nat­u­ral. Waverly Farms does not use any pes­ti­cides on crops or pas­tures. An­i­mal ma­nure, ex­cess crops, cover crops, and spoiled hay pro­vide rich com­post each year that is ap­plied to the farm’s pas­tures and gar­dens.

Pro­duce is sold lo­cally through a CSA (com­mu­nity sup­ported agri­cul­ture) pro­gram. Waverly Farms CSA boxes are in high de­mand. “Peo­ple re­ally do ap­pre­ci­ate get­ting a share of what­ever we har­vest each week,” says Patti. “They want fresh food and sup­port the way we do things. Our goal is to be a good stew­ard by treat­ing the land sus­tain­ably and im­prov­ing it while we’re here.”

The boxes started out with veg­eta­bles and eggs, but have ex­panded. “We added a pro­tein CSA share, which has been amaz­ingly pop­u­lar,” says Patti. “We give our cus­tomers what­ever we think they need of our pigs and cows and tell them how to cook ev­ery­thing.”

Chip­ping in

W ith all of this ex­tra work, the Rosen­bergs count on a few full-time trained farm staff, sup­ple­mented by in­terns, lo­cal res­i­dents, and ap­pren­tices for help.

“We find peo­ple who we think would en­joy be­ing here, would want to learn a lot, and would want to chip in,” Patti says. Their two daugh­ters and fam­i­lies visit the farm when they can.

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.

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, but they’re not. It’s amaz­ing how easy and less ex­pen­sive it is to be nat­u­ral.”

Pho­tog­ra­phy: Tony Gi­ammarino

Patti and Stu­art Rosen­berg both come from the health care in­dus­try.

The Rosen­bergs raise Amer­i­can Guinea hogs.

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