A Tale of Two Farms



Hannah at Shalom Farms greeting briefing volunteers.

I love visiting small farms! In the course of my travel and food writing life, I cross paths with small farms often. I might get leads at a restaurant where they list the farmers that contribute to the menu items, a farmer’s market, or even some grocery stores highlighting a farmer whose goods are on the shelves. Through the course of 4-5 farm visits each year I’ve learned much from the farmers I visit, sometimes much more than farming techniques and trends.

Starting up a small farm can be done for a variety of reasons. I’m constantly impressed with how one can create their own farm to reflect values and desires. By touring farms, I can learn about farming practices as well as finding a purpose in life. Two farms I’ve visited so far this year have helped me understand the many ways farming can add value to life experiences.

Shalom Farms (Midlothian, Va.)

Although Shalom Farms was started by the United Methodist Urban Ministries of Richmond, they no longer have a religious element. Their current mission statement is “To work with communities to ensure access to healthy food and the support to live healthy lives.” A diverse group of board members steers the farm in the direction of bringing healthy produce to under-served community members who need it the most.

With a 12 acres farmland-much of it protected by an electric fence to keep out the deer, high tunnels, and a greenhouse, Shalom can crank out a significant amount of gorgeous produce. In 2018, volunteers gave 16,482 hours and produced 400,000 servings of produce. Steve Miles (the director of farm operations), and his crew collectively have over 40 years of farming experience to guide Shalom Farms. Eschewing chemicals, the farm uses practices similar to organic farming and manages to grow a variety of crops. On a hot September day, I volunteered with my group of travel writers and saw gorgeous red bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, cukes, and potatoes destined for lucky households. Even with the unseasonably dry weather, Shalom Farms was growing healthy crops that made me envious. When the soil is happy, the crops are happy proving to me that chemical-free farming works.

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