The New Way to Farm

The Loudoun County agriculture industry has been on a decline, but a few farms are keeping locally sourced and agriculture alive in the form of remedial farming. 

For hundreds of years, Loudoun was an agriculture-dominated area with many of its inhabitants maintaining large farms. A variety of family-owned farms could be found raising various livestock and crops for personal and commercial use. Thirty years ago there were nearly one hundred local dairy farms providing goods to Loudoun residents. Now, only one remains: Pott’s Farm. 

When Dulles Airport was opened in 1962, the extensive nature of Loudoun’s agriculture began to change as the urbanization of Virginia occurred. With the rapid development of residential communities and rising prices due to Loudoun’s proximity to the airport and Washington D.C., many had to abandon farms or move towards urban areas for the sake of economic growth. This decline has continued as the tech industry has taken over the area in recent years. 

However, while the decline in commercial farming in Loudoun is clear, there are still many hardworking people working to sustain the industry as a part of effort to bring a healing spirit to agriculture.

A Farm Less Ordinary is one of these places. Aside from sustaining agriculture through farms in Lovettsville and Leesburg, AFLO’s main goal is to provide employment and community to those with developmental and intellectual disabilities. The organization originally began in 2016 when Maya Wechsler and Greg Masucci’s family moved to Bluemont, Virginia in order to give their autistic and non-verbal son, Max, a community. AFLO was to be a “farm where he and other adults with developmental disabilities could find paid work, acceptance, and meaning.” Their “Growers” work to cultivate dozens of fruits and vegetables for sale through local markets and community supported agriculture produce boxes. Employees work tirelessly every day to sustain the farms with the help of many volunteers. 

As a non-profit, AFLO relies on the donations of time and money received from the community to hopefully expand the project in the future. To support their efforts, donate on the A Farm Less Ordinary website or sign up to volunteer starting on February 1st. 

  The Outlander staff visited High Valley Farm, owned by one of The Outlander’s own: John Hays. The Hays family tends to Scottish Highland cows, Hungarian Mangalica pigs, and Nigerian Dwarf goats on their farm. When asked how she got into agriculture Mary Hays said, “I grew up on a horse farm in Ohio. John’s father, John Hays, did not grow up on a farm, but his grandfather had about 1000 acres.” The Hays, a military family, knew they wanted to settle in rural Loudoun after Mr. John Hays retired from the Marines. He now practices litigation law. The hard work of keeping the farm running is a pleasant way for Mr. Hays to reconnect with his family and the land after two tours in Iraq. 

 The new farms of Loudoun County not only provide families with the highest quality food, but they also heal the landowners. Farming has become a form of therapy for the residents in Loudoun.