Farm to table with family in Virginia

by Donna Cain, innkeeper and owner

We just spent a couple of days visiting dear family in Richmond. We were greeted with a wonderful dinner at Byrons Aunt Jean’s house where we were able to meet all of the grand and great grand kids. What an incredible treat and blessing. There is something so endearing about southern hospitality. Life just seems to go at a slower pace and in this case, is all about family. I had  heard many stories about  Byron’s cousins, Jan and Alan, who had built a home in the country. Both had tired of Alan having to travel and being away from family so they decided to switch careers and build a family farm. Byron and I had talked about this many times and were anxious to see what country farming is all about.

I was especially excited as I believe and support the “farm to table” movement and strive to serve our family and guests fresh vegetables, herbs, eggs and meats whenever we can and the Captain Freeman Inn. I would also love to have a chicken coop one day at the inn where our guests could enjoy fresh eggs in the morning. Jan and I had the opportunity to talk, and she is a wealth of information about the affect of diet on ones health.

Before we toured the farm we visited in their large beautiful log cabin surrounded by family and a nice warm fire. Jan’s oldest daughter was visiting from Canada and they have three darling young children who were very happy to be spoiled by Grandma and Grandpa.

Since spring is the muddy season on the farm, Jan loaned me a pair of rubber boots so that we could see the entire farm. We left Harrison in the car as we did not want him to excite the chickens. We meandered down to their country store and saw Alan’s beautiful lake off to the left of the property. I was tickled to see a John Deer tractor….always thought they were kinda cool. (next time I’ll have to ask if I could have a short drive and maybe move some hay with it:))

First shot is of the family. Note the mobile chicken coup in the background that Alan is building. At first it seemed kinda crazy but once I stopped to think about it, it made perfect sense. Successful gardening is all about fertilizing the soil. (Nanna always told me that chicken manure is the best fertilizer to add to the garden soil) Alan will move the coup around their fields which has wire mesh on the bottom to allow the “bird poop” (excuse the graphics) to fall below. They have nesting boxes along the sides to pick up the eggs daily.

Farm helpers

Farm helpers

The chickens just looked so happy and were fenced in the orchard area where new pear, apple and peach trees were growing.

New chickens for fresh eggs

New chickens for fresh eggs

Jan holding one of their prized chickens

Jan holding one of their prized chickens

We were lucky enough to meet a new calf that was just born last week. The Mom’s name is Button, and they were looking for a new name for this cute little guy. This area is used for milking which they do once a day. I was interested in learning that the new breed of milking cows can now be milked once a day which is perfect for small gentlemen farms that may combine working a regular job with having a few animals at home to feed their families. I grew up in the Berkshires in dairy country and remember very well having to stop our car as the cows moved to and from the rolling country fields to the milking parlor twice a day. Having to do the milking once a day (by hand I might add) seemed like a huge advantage, especially on the cold winter days. They had 6-8 milking cows with two almost ready to give birth. They sell the delicious milk in the store. When we opened the frig in the store I saw 3 large bottles of milk with cream on the top with customer’s names on the top. These bottles are reused each time.

New calf.....name TBD

New calf…..name TBD

Mamma Button

Mamma Button

The rest of the milking herd

The rest of the milking herd

Chicken processing site:(

Chicken processing site:(

Now here is the picture Byron thought I should leave off….but hey this is a part of life. This is the chicken/turkey processing center. The farm sells fresh milk and cream, fresh eggs and fresh chicken meat and yes the poor chickens have to be killed so that humans can enjoy the fresh meat on their tables. State health code allows them to process the chicken meat but the cattle have to be processed by a licensed butcher.

Byron and Jan-  cousins

Byron and Jan- cousins

Frozen beef

Frozen beef

Byron is from Wyoming and always enjoys when we serve meat for dinner. When I looked in the store freezer I so wished we lived closer so that we could enjoy the benefits of grass fed beef from this farm.

2 blue birds pirched on top of the fence post

2 blue birds pirched on top of the fence post

The last part of our tour included a visit to Julie’s house (Jan’s sister) which is right next door. We could see the beef cattle grazing in the far field. I was tickled to see a wide variety of birds flying around and ecstatic when I saw a Bluebird pair pirched on a near bye fence post. They were my mother’s favorite bird, and I have always loved them too. This just made my day!

The farm also includes a large vegetable garden, blueberry and strawberry patch, all sold in the country store. Jan said it was fun in the summer to visit with some retired old time farmers that love to see what they are doing. They always love to share stories that are filled with good clues on how to make the farm run more smoothly. I am learning that our elders are always filled with good advise.

As we were walking back to the house Jan shared that when they started the farm they did not know a single thing about farming. They have just jumped in and learned along the way. I was so impressed. What a great way to tackle a new life adventure.

Oh I forgot to mention that their son also helps on the farm and has a bee hive. There was a mystery last year as all the of bees left the hive. That happened to many neighbors which is a concern. They were going to try again this spring and hopefully be able to sell the honey in the store.

Thanks Jan and Alan for sharing your farm with us. Just wished we lived closer to help out and to be able to benefit and enjoy all of your farm to table bounty.

So Byron, do you think we can build a chicken coop now at the Captain Freeman Inn?

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