The Farm at Willow Run
Farm to Table... Right at VMRC
The Farm at Willow Run, VMRC's 40-acre farm property, was established in 2013 and produces 36,000 pounds of produce in a season. Farm staff, along with VMRC residents and volunteers from the community and Eastern Mennonite University's Sustainable Food Initiative, provide the labor across four seasons to grow and harvest produce including leaf lettuce, salad mix, spinach, beets, collard greens, chard, Irish and sweet potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, turnips, tomatoes and sweet corn, as well as a variety of herbs.
From the hands of VMRC residents assisting in starting seeds in the cozy warmth of the greenhouse mid-winter to enjoying the abundance of food in the Main Street Café under the full summer sun, the Farm at Willow Run is one part of VMRC's innovative approach to a farm-to-table food system across the VMRC community.
The Farm at Willow Run Highlights:
- 2008 - 40 acres of land comprising pasture, woodland and wetlands, formerly known as the Layman Dairy/ Augsburger Property, is purchased by VMRC
- 2013 - The Farm at Willow Run is established on 1.5 acres
- 2017 - A 9.9 K photovoltaic solar array, funded by donors, is installed on the barn roof, providing the majority of electric power for farm operations
- A High Tunnel Hoop House is added to the farm through the USDA/NRCS and an all-season greenhouse is donated, allowing for year-round food production
- In 5 years, the farm has grown from 1.5 acres to 4 acres in tilth for produce
- A second 30x96 all-season High Tunnel is constructed by the generous support of a VMRC resident donor
- Through contributions from community donors, a 200 square foot walk-in cooler is installed, enhancing food quality, safety and preservation
- A second full-time farm position is added to serve in year-round food production and farm management
- A scalable, science-based composting program commences that will transform nutrients from VMRC kitchens into rich soil amendments for farm gardens
- The VMRC Farm at Willow Run is featured on the weekly VPM PBS television show, Virginia Farming
- A Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program is introduced, delivering weekly selections of produce to 20 households in the VMRC community for a 10-week period.
- Weekly produce deliveries are made to Patchwork Pantry
- A root crop barrel washer is added, along with a new washing station
- 60 tons of on-site compost produced for soil building
- Perennial flower and herbs are planted, attracting pollinators and beneficial insects
- 30 different crops producing more than 100 varieties are grow
- Addition of two new caterpillar tunnels
- Expanded CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program to include staff and increased from a 10-week delivery to 20 weeks.
- Addition of a full-time seasonal farm position
- Created new walking trails and a welcome kiosk for community members and visitors
- Expansion of native flowering and beneficial perennial plantings
- Hosted the first Farm at Willow Run open house for neighbors and community members with a local food truck, band and guided tours
- Addition of cauliflower, eggplant, ginger, okra, snap peas and oyster mushrooms to the growing schedule
- Donations to Patchwork Pantry, a local food pantry, have totaled nearly 4000 pounds of produce in 2021