Coalition Meets in Petersburg, VA

On July 25, 2018, the Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition partners and friends gathered again at the Virginia State University Randolph Farm in Petersburg, VA. This year’s meeting included a farmer panel and breakout sessions addressing critical issues facing beginning farmers and ranchers across the state.

The gathering began with a welcome from the Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition and the Virginia State University Small Farm Outreach Program (VSU SFOP) teams. The VSU SFOP team is about to complete their first year of the Beginning Farmer & Rancher Development Program grant and was very excited to share their first year’s progress.

Following the introductions, a group of seven mentor and mentee farmers who are involved in the VSU programming joined us for a panel discussion on the mentoring experiences. The farmers were asked to describe their farm businesses; tell us how mentoring (either as a mentor or mentee) has helped them grow and succeed; and share stories that are meaningful to them from their time as mentors and mentees. Farmers on the panel included Albert McGhee, Herbert Brown, Mark Chandler, Natasha Hatton, Phil Rudd, and Thomas and Anita Roberson.

After the farmer panel, Jim Hankins, executive director of the Fauquier Education Farm in Warrenton, VA shared some highlights from the farm’s past year, including how over 60,000 lbs of food was grown and distributed in 2017! Allyssa Mark also spoke about the program evaluations that have been completed so far in 2018.

After lunch, participants split into several breakout sessions to discuss various topics relevant to beginning farmers across the state. These groups included women in agriculture; farm safety, health, and wellness; land access; access to markets; and veteran farmers. These groups had already been formed and meeting via phone conference, so we were excited to be able to come together in person, as well as bring in new, interested individuals. These teams ended their time together with action plans to guide their work moving forward, and they will be meeting by phone again soon.

This year’s gathering ended with a tour of the Randolph Farm. Participants rode in a tented trailer to visit the farm’s fields and greenhouses

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Job Listing for Vegetable Farm

Job Description

MMG is looking for seasonal labor on our diversified vegetable farm. We are a small family farm with limited staff, so potential candidates must be flexible, hard-working and willing to work well with a very small team. Candidate will be trained in various tasks and will be expected to learn quickly and accomplish many tasks solo. Preferred candidates will have a self-driving interest in small-scale farming.  Position could begin as early as April 1.


  • 20-40 hours a week outside (in full-sun or rain). The primary responsibilities will be planting, weeding, harvesting, and pack-out for farmers market and CSA sales. Worker will use hand tools and tractors regularly, and must be able to operate a vehicle.


  • Strong work ethic and interest in horticulture and food!
  • Conscientious, energetic and hardworking
  • Physically fit, able to lift 50 pounds, and able to work outside in all weather conditions
  • Work cooperatively with the farm owners and other field workers
  • Must have familiarity with a wide variety of produce, a desire to learn and expand knowledge
  • Strong communication and excellent people skills required
  • Must have ability to work independently, be self-motivated, a critical thinker/problem solver

Hourly pay based on experience.

Send resume with brief description of yourself and interests to:

See our website for more information

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Mini-Grant Success Stories: Introduction to Getting Your Hands Dirty

Over the coming months, we will be sharing the success stories of our 2015-2016 VBFRC mini-grant projects. This month, we are highlighting “An Introduction to Getting Your Hands Dirty,” a mini-grant project by the Fauquier Education Farm and Virginia Cooperative Extension (Fauquier Office).

This project was brought together as a compliment to the Northern Piedmont Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program. Through five years of Beginning Farmer trainings, the most frequently requested additional training from students was an intensive how-to-farm course. Many students recognized that they lacked the basic farming skill sets to launch their new enterprises, and there had not been any entry-level courses locally available for them to acquire these skills. Thus, “An Introduction to Getting Your Hands Dirty” was born!

During April and May of 2016, 22 students attended this 6-week course. The course included classroom lectures, outdoor labs held at the Fauquier Education Farm, and farm tours. As a result of the course, a majority of students reported that their knowledge had increased a great deal. Students also reported that the course exceeded their expectations – some even wishing the course were longer so more information could be offered!

The success of the 2016 “Introduction to Getting Your Hands Dirty” mini-grant project prompted another submission for a VBFRC mini-grant by the Fauquier Education Farm and the Fauquier office of Virginia Cooperative Extension. This project was funded and has already begun! On March 29th, a free orientation was offered to introduced interested individuals to the program, and classes will begin on April 5th. We are delighted to see this project continue and look forward to hearing about this year’s successes!

If you are interested in hearing more about the “Introduction to Getting Your Hands Dirty” workshop successes, please contact Jim Hankins at

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A New Year for the VBFRC

On January 18th, 2017, partners of the Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition gathered at the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, VA to network, share progress on current work, and discuss the future of the Coalition.

Since our last meeting in May 2016, the Coalition has been hard at work addressing various topics relevant to beginning farmers and ranchers in Virginia. Our critical action teams have held marketing training events for producers and service providers, created brochures to advertise land transfer resources, and spoken with military veterans across the state in an effort to begin a Virginia chapter of the Farmer Veteran Coalition. Our evaluation team has been working with our partners to gain feedback on our current and previous Whole Farm Planning programs. Our seven 2015-2016 Mini-Grant projects have concluded, and six new projects have just begun.


We were happy to have our 2015-2016 Mini-Grant project leads join us to participate in a panel discussion. Each lead shared highlights from their projects and lessons they learned over the last year. Advice offered by these leads will be useful to our 2017 Mini-Grant project leads, as well as organizers of other projects that our Coalition partners hold across the state.


Our partners then spent the afternoon brainstorming and discussing the interesting things we learned during the meeting, how we can work better together to achieve our goals, and what we want to see happen for the Coalition in 2017.

So what exciting things do we have happening in 2017?

  • Six new mini-grant projects happening all across the state
  • Targeted work addressing: direct marketing, military veterans, land access, and stewardship best practices
  • Farmer mentoring/networking opportunities connecting you with other experienced and beginning farmers and ranchers
  • Webinars presented by a number of service providers and Coalition partners working in all areas of agriculture
  • Blog posts written by Coalition partners on various Coalition and agriculture-related topics
  • Continued updates provided through our website and social media accounts


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The VBFRC Farm Transfer Training and Coalition Meeting


On May 16th and 17th, the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition (VBFRC) held two meetings at the Virginia Farm Bureau building near Richmond, VA. Farmers, service providers, and Coalition members gathered from all across the state to participate in a farm transfer training event and discuss the progress and future work of the Coalition.


The first meeting was a Farm Transfer Strategy and Networking Training planned by the land transfer action team formed at the Coalition meeting in October. We were pleased to have several individuals with experience in the area of land transfer join us for the training. Kathy Ruhf of Land For Good, a nationally recognized leader in farm entry, succession, and tenure, was the main speaker for the event. Kathy shared an overview of succession planning, how service providers in Virginia can increase their awareness of the intricacies involved when discussing farm succession, and how to make those conversations easier. Two attorneys, Andrew Branan (The Branan Law Firm, PLLC) and Mark Botkin (BotkinRose PLC), also shared some of their experiences in farm succession and discussed what farmers should do to develop a succession plan before talking to an attorney. Lastly, a panel of Virginia Cooperative Extension specialists, including Peter Callan, Gordon Groover, and Adam Downing, discussed their roles in extension as they relate to land access and what resources they have to offer for others to use. During the training, attendees took time to discuss what they are working on in the area of farm transfer and what resources they use to address the issue.


The second meeting was the VBFRC Statewide Gathering. These meetings are a way for Coalition members to hear about what is happening within the Coalition and make plans for future work. In the morning, attendees split into groups to discuss important topics relevant to reaching our objectives. These topics included: farmer mentoring, farmer-led innovation, health-based and assistive technology support for farmers, underserved farmer audiences, and understanding the needs of young farmers. In the afternoon, the action teams formed at our October Coalition meeting met to introduce new members to the work, set goals for the coming months, and identify what resources would be needed to move forward.

Both the Farm Transfer Strategy and Networking Training and the VBFRC Statewide Gathering were huge successes. As a result of the training, several service providers across Virginia have a better understanding of the many pieces involved in the discussion of farm transfer and are more prepared to have such a discussion with farmers and ranchers across Virginia. The VBFRC Statewide Gathering allowed for feedback to be provided on where and how the Coalition should focus its efforts and offered up a space for our action teams to continue with the work they are doing in their respective areas.

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Conversation with Herbert Brown, Sr. and Herb Brown, Jr., Browntown Farms (Warfield, VA)

In the summer of 2015, the Virginia Farmer and Rancher Coalition team spoke with Herbert Brown, Sr. and Herb Brown, Jr. about their farm, Browntown Farms. This conversation covered how the farm got started, how labor is managed, and expansion plans for the future. Browntown Farms is located in Warfield, VA.

Browntown Farms has been in Warfield since 1908. The farm started raising sweet potatoes and collard greens and expanded over time. People are happy with the produce grown on the farm and often visit Browntown Farms to buy the produce. Herb will be taking over the farm and plans to continue this growth, expanding both the farm and the market opportunities by becoming an agritourism location. To hear more about the marketing and expansion of Browntown Farms, watch the video below.

Herbert grew up growing tobacco and raising a large garden. The farm was expanded to introduce different produce varieties after attending farm workshops and seminars. In addition, advice from other experienced farmers in the community aided the growth and development of the farm. To hear more about the development of the farm and Browntown Farm’s advice for new farmers, watch the video below.

Browntown Farms has several employees that are picked up and dropped off each day by the farm owners. Hired labor is vital to the success of the farm, and Herbert and Herb have had to develop their management skills to keep labor organized and efficient on the farm. To hear more about how labor is managed and motivated on Browntown Farms, watch the video below.


Interviewed by: Theresa Nartea, Virginia State University

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Conversation with Amy Hicks, Amy’s Garden (Charles City, VA)

In the summer of 2015, the Virginia Farmer and Rancher Coalition team visited Amy’s Garden to talk with Amy Hicks about what is grown on the farm, how the farm developed, and how labor is handled on the farm. Amy’s Garden is an organic farm located in Charles City, VA and you can visit the website at

Amy’s Garden produces organic vegetables, fruits, and cut flowers sold primarily at farmer’s markets. Amy watches food trends and past sales in order to plan what will be grown each season and uses Excel spreadsheets to stay organized. To hear more about the marketing and planning that goes on at Amy’s Garden, watch the video below.

Amy’s Garden is located on 70 acres of land but began as a “backyard garden” and continued to grow into the business that it is now. Hiring labor and communicating with Virginia Cooperative Extension has helped them to be successful through the years. To hear more about how Amy’s Garden started and get more advice from Amy, watch the video below.


Amy’s Garden hires five H-2A agricultural workers and also employs local college-aged students. Organic farming is very labor intensive and it is difficult to find hard workers, with the H-2A process involving a good deal of paperwork and process. However, her employees work hard and take on a lot of responsibility on the farm and at farmer’s markets. To learn more about Amy’s Garden’s labor practices, watch the video below.


Interviewed by: Theresa Nartea, Virginia State University

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Conversation with Anne Geyer, Agriberry Farm (Hanover, VA)

In the summer of 2015, the Virginia Farmer and Rancher Coalition team met with Anne Geyer, of Agriberry Farm, to hear how they got started, how they run their operation, and how they manage labor and tasks on their farm. Agriberry Farm is located in Hanover, VA and you can visit their website at:

Anne did not grow up on a farm and pursued farming with a sense of optimism and excitement. Agriberry was started in 2008 as an opportunity to grow raspberries and blackberries for a worker training program aimed towards people with no experience in farming. Hear about Anne’s beginning in farming and get advice on your own beginning in the video below.

Agriberry farm grows a number of berries, cherries, and peaches, though the focus is on raspberries and blackberries. Because the farm is always in a state of planning and development, Anne is constantly setting and reconsidering the goals that have been set for Agriberry. Hear about how Anne adjusts the goals set for Agriberry and hear a little about what factors influence these adjustments in the video below.

Agriberry uses online and in-person tools to recruit workers, adopting newer technology to get and stay in contact with their younger workers and make them more comfortable at work. Their workers basically work in berry picking but also have workers who go to farmer’s markets and sell their berries. Hear about the labor Agriberry hires and trains, and the challenges Anne has seen over the years in the video below.


Interviewed by: Theresa Nartea, Virginia State University

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Conversation with Vincent Porcello, Porcello Farm (Charlottesville, VA)

In the spring of 2015, the Virginia Farmer and Rancher Coalition team met with several farmers across the state to hear their stories about how they got started in farming, how they run their operations, and how they manage labor and tasks on their farm. Vincent Porcello, of Porcello Farm just south of Charlottesville, VA, volunteered to share some of his experiences with us.

Vince feels confident in how he and his wife, Jessica, got started in farming. They worked with the local extension office, attended seminars, started small, and stayed organized. Vince encourage new farmers to plan ahead in order to increase your chances of being successful and enjoying the benefits of running a farm.

Vince and Jessica work alone on the farm, following the light of the day. They are never idle throughout the year – maintenance gets done in the winter and major production gets done in the spring and summer. The labor aspect is very demanding. However, working on their farm fits with their lifestyle more than hiring labor would, and Vince encourages farmers to consider their lifestyle goals before bringing hired labor onto their operations.

Vince and Jessica started selling at the local farmer’s market and eventually expanded their market to include stores in town. Now, they are able to sell flowers and a number of vegetables to local sources.


Interviewed by: Cathryn Kloetzli, Virginia Cooperative Extension

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Conversation with Jamie Barrett, Bellair Farm (Charlottesville, VA)

In the spring of 2015, the Virginia Farmer and Rancher Coalition team met with several farmers across the state to hear their stories about how they got started in farming, how they run their operations, and how they manage labor and tasks on their farm. One such farmer is Jamie Barrett, owner of Bellair Farm. Bellair Farm is a CSA in Charlottesville, VA.

Jamie was not always farming, or even in agriculture. He found farming through the Farm School in Massachusetts and felt fulfilled by the work he did there. Jamie then worked at Appleton Farms in Massachusetts until deciding to start his own enterprise in Charlottesville. Hear all about how Jamie found farming and established Bellair Farm in the video below.

Bellair Farm has been established for five years and includes, in total, about 300 acres with a vegetable farm and pastureland. While Bellair Farm is a CSA, some of the vegetables are sold through other channels. Listen to Jamie tell us about what is grown on the farm and where products are sold.

Bellair hires a handful of workers every season, introducing new workers to the farm through a guided approach. Jamie takes great care to make sure that the goals of his employees align well with work on the farm and helps them to reach their personal farming aims. Hear about Bellair Farm’s labor situation and how workers are managed on the farm.

In the future, Jamie would like to continue expanding the farm and begin planning more long-term. Feeling confident in the enterprise and being able to plan in this way takes more time on the farm and Jamie is excited to keep moving forward. Listen as Jamie shares his vision and goals for Bellair Farm’s future.


Interviewed by: Cathryn Kloetzli, Virginia Cooperative Extension

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