“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.