Waterpenny Farm: Sustainable Farming Offers a Sustainable Lifestyle

Rachel Bynum and Eric Plaksin of Waterpenny Farm in Sperryville, V.A., were drawn to farming for a number of reasons, but, for Bynum, the lifestyle of small-scale farming was a major factor in her career decision. Rachel majored in environmental studies in college, and was first exposed to sustainable farming in a class.

Baby basil
Photo by Katherine Vance.

“The way of life was very appealing,” she says. “I just like to be outside. I like to work with my hands and to work close to home and to my family. And the feeling of working with the produce from the start until it is in the hands of the customer… It’s really gratifying.”

Due to her background in environmental education, Rachel also appreciates that sustainable farming allows her to have a career that is in line with her values. She feels that she is able to make a positive contribution to her community as well as ensure that the natural spaces of Waterpenny flourish for future generations.

“We spend extra time and money on methods that go beyond what is necessary,” Rachel explains, “but we plan to be here our whole lives, and I want the land to stay healthy. We want to leave our children with the possibility of being able to farm here.”

Rachel and Eric are in their 12th growing season at Waterpenny. They grow a large variety of vegetables and flowers on 10 acres of the land, including squash, greens, cucumbers, garlic, and about 30 varieties of tomatoes. They also encourage others to grow their own produce by selling bedded seedlings to plant in the spring. Waterpenny’s produce is available at farmers’ markets, but Rachel and Eric also sell their goods from the farm.

“We love to have people come to the farm and see what we’re doing,” Rachel explains. “Our customers feel a personal connection to our farm, and that connection is important to people who want the confidence that their food is good for their health and is cultivated in a sustainable way.”

This farm profile was included in The Piedmont Environmental Council’s 2011 Buy Fresh Buy Local guide for the Northern Piedmont.

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