The concept of “farm-to-fork” fare has gained popularity in big cities as well as small towns, but in regions like southern Virginia, where pastures and edible plants far outweigh the plants of the industrial kind, farm-to-fork isn’t really a new approach to eating; it’s the natural thing to do.
Mecklenburg County, south of Richmond along the Virginia-North Carolina border, displays miles of scenic woodlands, rolling pastures dotted with grazing cows, and crops that are lovingly tended and harvested. Keeping with the spirit of Southern hospitality, many farms aren’t just for viewing — they’re for visiting, too.
From the farm:
Start at Crickets Cove Farm & Forge in Victoria, where Marianne Cicala and her husband, Jim Cooper, specialize in permaculture, a type of organic farming practice that uses no fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. “It makes a huge difference when you can literally walk through and see the partnership with plants and see how beautiful and delicious food is in its natural state,” Cicala said.
You can learn more about natural gardening techniques by attending one of the farm’s workshops, which offer classroom-style instruction on sustainability, companion planting, biodynamics, and hands-on participation in garden layouts. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as primitive camping on the creek, are all included in the weekend. The next workshop is Oct. 9–11. (cricketscove.net)
Mighty Oaks Farm in Boydton offers free farm tours with opportunities to meet its dairy goats, free-range chickens, and honeybees. (mightyoaksfarm.net) In South Hill, you’ll find Hammten Farms, where you can buy the pork and poultry that is raised without the use of chemicals, pesticides, GMOs, soy, hormones, or antibiotics. (hammten
farms.com) The Taylor-Wright Farm in Broadnax is a sixth-generation operation that encourages visitors to the 180-acre farm raising all-natural pigs, goats, turkeys, and chickens. The farm has earned an animal welfare certification. (thetaylorwrightfarmcompany.com)
To the fork:
Purchase your meat from Taylor-Wright to go, or simply pull up a stool at The Horseshoe Restaurant in South Hill. This seemingly hole-in-the-wall diner serves up an extraordinary selection of menu items, including peach and prosciutto pizza or blueberry balsamic pork chops — far from your typical diner fare.
At Cooper’s Landing Inn & Traveler’s Tavern in Clarksville, patrons may savor a tasty brunch on the patio or a delightful dinner in one of their elegantly adorned dining rooms.
The menu changes seasonally to incorporate local fruits and vegetables, so you can always expect something fresh and memorable. (cooperslandinginn.net)
Nothing pairs with the fine flavors of southern Virginia like a glass of local wine.
Rosemont of Virginia, located in LaCrosse, is a historic estate winery offering a spectrum of wines, from merlot and Bourdeaux to traminette and pinot grigio, with some lighter, sweeter selections also available (rosemontofvirginia.com)
Gravitate toward a sweeter selection at Three Sisters of Shiney Rock Winery in Clarksville, producing muscadine, scuppernong, and blackberry wines. (threesistersofshineyrock.com)
American Way Country Wines in Chase City focuses on fruit wines crafted with ripe peaches, blackberries, cherries, elderberries, apples, and even pumpkins to create unique, fruitful batches. (americanwaycountrywines.com)
Wine isn’t the only beverage fermenting in these parts. At Bondurant Brothers Distillery in Chase City, brothers Robert and Joe obtain corn and barley from local farmers for use in crafting apple and peach brandy, aged corn whiskey, and moonshine in an array of flavors. The Bondurant family is no stranger to stills and has quite the moonshining history; in fact, the movie Lawless was loosely based on the brothers’ grandfather and great uncles who sold moonshine during Prohibition.
Robert said they chose Chase City because of the excellent water quality and the town’s character. “There’s a world of people that drive through Chase City every day,” Robert noted. “We’re going to get them to stop.” The distillery will offer tours by appointment when it opens in the near future. (bondurantbrothersdistillery.com)
Sip and savor to your heart’s content at the South Hill Wine Festival, Sept. 19, featuring regional wineries, artists, music, and food. You can enjoy moonshine and wine tastings paired with live music at the Sept. 26 Shine & Wine Festival held at Chase City Municipal Airport.
On Oct. 3, the first Big Buggs Island Blues Bash brings on the music 3:00–11:00pm in Clarksville, with a variety of blues performers, arts and crafts, and alcohol available for purchase.
Southern Virginia makes it easy to follow your food from the farm to the fork, so roll up your sleeves to play in the dirt a little, then savor all that the region has to offer, from sumptuous plates to luscious sips — all of which are worth celebrating.
For more information:
Mecklenburg Co. Tourism: visitmeckva.com