The farm-to-table trend is seemingly everywhere. Restaurants draw in new customers by working with local ingredients and the higher demand for locally produced foods boosts the economy.
This amazing food revolution is also taking place in Charlottesville, stimulating organic farming, sustainable agriculture, community support and instilling fresh and seasonal eating habits promoting health and a healthy environment. A strong network of hard-working young farmers is on the rise. For proof, look no further than Union Grass Farm, started only a few years ago but already a beloved provider of many restaurants in town.
These passionate farmers are producing the absolute highest quality of meats while making sure to respect the animals and the environment in the process, using methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster conservation of resources and promote an ecological balance and biodiversity. The founding team was originally inspired by the famous Virginian farmer and environmentalist Joel Salatin and his holistic system.
Joel Slezak and Erica Hellen, both under 40, are at the forefront of this farm, located 15 miles northwest of Charlottesville in Free Union. There, they are raising free-range chickens, egg-laying chickens, ducks, pigs, and cows, all grazing outdoors and 100% grass-fed, and antibiotic and hormone free to boot. The poultry and hog’s daily diet is finished off with a milled ration from Sunrise Farm in the Shenandoah Valley.
They sell their goods directly to restaurants, hotels, gourmet stores and farmers markets, hoping this interest in farm-to-table is not a passing trend. They explain that even though they might be more expensive than the big box industry, theirs is the only sustainable solution. They know they won’t be rich and that they will need to work hard, but they love their quality of life.
You can shop at the farm every Friday and farm tours are available from April 1 through October 31. If you think the farm life might be for you, summer interns live in the stunning Airstream trailer and Airbnb rooms are available for rent if you are only interested for a weekend. What awaits is a beautiful and educational summer escape working on a sustainable livestock farm.
Phone: (434) 823-4632
Hours: Mon, Wed, Fri from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Text and photo: Edu Bayer