How is the “Farden” Coming Along?
By Doug Fabbioli
How is the “Farden” Coming Along?
OK, so what the heck is a Farden? Well, it falls somewhere between a farm and a garden. After working countless acres of grapes for four decades, both on our land and others’, I know what a farm looks like and more importantly, how one operates. Working a backyard garden has its own challenges, but it is a pretty big leap to go from a plot of land in the backyard to a full-blown agricultural venture with all kinds of problems, many of which could lead to failure. It’s often easier to take a smaller step first. That middle ground between a large garden and a small farm is what I like to think of as a “Farden.”
We have a few areas on our farm that have great soil but are inappropriate for growing grapes. To be efficient and thoughtful with the land, we have created a new model by leasing this space to others to start their own farm operations on our land. Meet the folks at Sprouting Roots Farm: they were looking for a place to expand their business and connected with us through the Virginia Cooperative Extension office in Leesburg. Vishali and her team have been working diligently to capture this season’s sunshine and turn it into East Indian produce for her family and community. Farming one acre is a lot of work, and as hard as they work they still cannot produce enough to satisfy the demand from their customers. There are worse problems to have, I guess.
Another tenant here in the Farden area is Legacy Farms with their floral CSA (prepaid ag commitment) and mentoring program. Laurie and Billy Jo started working the land last year and have grown their program well. Employing neuro-diverse young people (those with autism or other differences) and training them in both outward and inward issues, making them more self aware, and giving them the tools to be effective in the right work environment is their goal. The land and the flowers are just the pathway to a much bigger crop of successes.
We have continued to expand our own projects in the Farden as well. Amanda joined our operation this spring to move our other crop efforts forward as well as to start her own work with medicinal herbs. No, we are not growing cannabis, but lavender, chamomile, elderberry, garlic and other plants that have medicinal value. And of course we continue with our squash, tomatoes, berries, pears and other products that add diversity to the farm.
Many people would not think to allow others on their land for a venture like these, but here at Fabbioli Cellars we understand that we have a responsibility to steward the land, not just hold it in perpetuity. And by doing this directly, I can learn the details and challenges in a way that allows me to encourage others to lease out parts of their land. Nothing is easy in farming, but continuing the learning and sharing of knowledge adds to the successful outcome.
Another agricultural venture I am involved in this season is Farmer John’s Market on Route 15, a few miles north of Leesburg. I have been buying my corn here for over 20 years and have been talking with John Whitmore about farming for just as long. When he decided to retire and sell off the land, the new owners asked me to lend a hand in keeping the operation working. It has been a rewarding project, working with the team and knowing that the goal is to maintain and grow their agricultural efforts. There is plenty of opportunity and I’m sure I’ll be updating you on this effort more over the next few months and years.
Big acreage or small, one farmer or a crew, keeping the land growing and sustainable is an important way for us to work and live. Farming is one of the oldest professions and, after all, we eat three times a day. Support and respect your local farmer. Buy what they produce and send your friends to see them too. Remember “it’s not easy being green.”