Starting up a farm is a tough business. Shipping fresh cut flowers offers its own set of challenges. Doing all of that just before the onset of a global pandemic — it’s almost a recipe for failure. Yet, at every challenge, a pair of entrepreneurial sisters have not only helped their business survive but thrive while establishing their farm in the Valley as one of the country’s top online shippers of fresh, direct-from-farm flowers.
Harrisonburg-area farmers told U.S. Rep. Ben Cline, along with the U.S. House Agriculture Committee’s top Republican, that one of the biggest challenges they face is a worker shortage — and one way to address it could be changes to the temporary and migrant worker visa programs.
While most people are familiar with what a county fair is, few may realize why we have them. The Rockingham Fair Association, which hosts the annual county fair, just outside the city limits south of Harrisonburg, states it held its first fair in 1949, although other local organizations held fairs in various locations around the county prior to that date. The history of the county fair in America, however, began much earlier.
On a sharply curved road just outside of Bridgewater proper and spitting distance from the Dry River, lies the 57-acre farm where Charlie Martin has lived and worked the land his entire life. It’s been in the family since his grandfather bought it in the early 1930s.
Because being first is not always best, a committee reviewing and proposing updates to Rockingham County’s solar farm ordinance is happy to draw on the experience of other communities.
“Soil is meant to be covered,” reads the stitching on Rockingham County farmer Mike Phillips’ hat. Along with his wife, Susan, Phillips owns Valley View Farm, where they raise cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs and pay special mind to soil heath through the use of cover crops, rotational grazing, and no-till planting techniques. For four years, the farm has partnered with Rockingham County Public Schools (RCPS) and Massanutten Technical Center’s (MTC) Agriculture Program. The growing program currently enrolls 26 students in the 10th through 12th grades from RCPS, Eastern Mennonite School, Harrisonburg City Schools as well as homeschooled students. The farm has been Phillips’ family for well over a century.
Migrant workers, who would spend this fall picking apples at Turkey Knob Growers’ orchard in Timberville, travelled roughly 50 hours by bus from Monterrey, Mexico, late this summer to get to northern Rockingham County. It’s a trip many have made for years. But in 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, everything seems to come with additional risks.