Sitting less than 100 yards from gardens and a variety of fruit trees on a farm in Charlottesville, I met with Dawn Story, founder of New Moon Naturals and Farmstead Ferments. Story tells me that she grew up in the Virginia Piedmont, and she was raised by a family who appreciated nature and a healthy diet.
Opening a restaurant like Market Table Bistro was always a dream for Rebecca Dudley and Jason Lage, both of whom went to culinary school and later met while working at Lansdowne Resort. They each grew up in rural locations where farm to table wasn’t a trend as much as it was a way of life. Lage’s mother and grandmother cooked with primarily locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, and that’s a concept he has always wanted to bring to his own business.
It’s pick-up day at Moutoux Orchard and it looks nothing like the scene at your nearest grocery store. It is mid-March when I went to visit, there is snow on the ground and members of the Moutoux year round whole-diet CSA are picking up their fresh veggies, milk, eggs, meat and fresh flour for this week’s meals. A buzz of activity- as adults pick out their food and the kids weave in and out of the barn playing.
Like many Piedmont farms, Over Jordan Farm in Rappahannock has been a pasture-based operation for decades. After 20 years of overgrazing, however, it’s facing issues that are common in the region—poor soil health, a lack of grass and plant diversity and the resulting lack of nutrients for livestock.
“Come ‘ere babies, who’s gonna come visit?” Patty Johnson calls out as we climb the fence into the field at Pannill’s Gate farm near Culpeper, Virginia. The cows regard her carefully, presumably weighing their chances of getting food or a scratch on the head. Every day, Patty is out in the fields, checking on her entirely grass-fed herd of Red Angus and Murray Grey cattle. For her, the practice of rotational grazing, or moving the cows to a new strip of pasture daily, “re-establishes that relationship- why I am here and why I do this.”