We had such a fabulous time during our trip to the Virginia countryside earlier this month that we wanted to share it all with you. See our previous blog for full disclosure on the first 36 hours of our stay.
After a beautiful evening at Keswick Hall, where the Capitol Grille’s Executive Chef Tyler Brown joined forces with chefs Walter Bundy and Aaron Cross to prepare a four-course meal for guests of the hotel’s Summer Bounty Garden Party, we retired to our rooms for a good night’s sleep. If the delicious food and wine we sampled throughout the evening weren’t enough to put us into a deep, peaceful rest, the beds at Keswick Hall were so luxurious that we were in dreamland before we could count to three.
We woke the next morning well rested and ready to continue our adventure in Old Virginia.
Saturday morning & early afternoon – Edible Orange Fest
Tyler, Walter and Aaron were asked to participate in Orange, Va.’s second annual Edible Orange Fest. The drive to Orange was gorgeous. Rt. 22 was a patchwork quilt of farm after farm with a pocket of Keswick Vineyard peeking through. When we arrived at the festival, the bottom dropped out; the sky opened up and, as we unloaded our supplies from the cars, we got drenched. We had passed a co-op on the drive there, so we hiked back and bought the first dry shirts and jackets we could grab. Now, one of my favorite pieces of clothing is my new, pink John Deere t-shirt.
Once we were settled, the master chefs went to work and, naturally, the sun came out. We had a beautiful day and the visitors at the festival crowded into the demonstration tent to listen to the chef-farmers talk about the bounty of summer harvests and how they incorporate the seasonal produce in their kitchens.
First up was Tyler, who showcased some of summer’s freshest fruits with a melon soup.
- 1 ea. cantaloupe melon
- 2 ea. lemon
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
Mix sugar and water together until sugar is dissolved. Next, mix all remaining ingredients together in a blender and chill. Garnish with anything fresh from the garden such as thinly sliced yum yum peppers and shaved fennel with lemon juice.
Chefs Walter Bundy was up second. He taught guests how to prepare a Hanover Tomato Gazpacho and Aaron Cross finished it out with a chilled Henley Orchard Peach and Lavender Soup with Caromont feta. The recipes for their soups may be found on each of their websites.
The three chefs had as much fun preparing and serving their dishes for guests as the guests, a well-heeled group of food growers and lovers, had tasting them. They swapped stories about gardening and the things they’ve learned from tending to their gardens.
Saturday late afternoon & evening – Polyface Farm
Once the chefs finished their demos, we headed to Polyface Farm, a family owned, pasture-based farm that is beyond organic and perfectly situated in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
Three generations of the Salatin family support the farm. And it’s their unconventional way of running Polyface that intrigued us so much that we had to visit.
Their mission is to develop emotionally, economically, environmentally enhancing agricultural enterprises and facilitate their duplication throughout the world.
We got an up-close view of just how they fulfill this mission. They run the farm their own way, disregarding conventional farming techniques and wisdom. The Salatins invented portable sheltering systems, which allow them to produce their animals on perennial prairie polycultures.
This should give you an idea of just what we’re talking about…
The image above is a photo from our tour with Joel Salatin, a third generation alternative farmer at Polyface. Joel spent three hours showing us around his farm and teaching us all about his and his family’s nontraditional ways of farming.
Displayed in the image above is one of the farm’s portable sheltering systems—this one’s specifically for the farm’s stewing hens. As you can see, it’s basically a moveable chicken coop.
But what’s the point? The chickens eat ticks and other bugs that the cows leave behind. The farmers then move the coops around from pasture to pasture so that the animals are always on fresh grass. So, the purpose of the moveable shelter is to produce a truly organic environment for the animals.
It’s no surprise that Polyface Farm, which means “the farm of many faces,” doesn’t just specialize in raising and producing one animal. Their production models include all of the following:
- Pastured eggs
- Pastured turkeys
- Salad bar beef (not breed specific)
- Pastured broilers
- Forage-based rabbits
- Stewing hens
- Pigaerator pork
The Salatins also keep bees, which produce local honey that is known to treat allergies.
Touring Polyface with Joel was a real treat and the perfect ending to a beautiful weekend. We certainly didn’t want to leave, but were excited to get back to our own farms after learning so much from Joel and the rest of the Salatin farmers. Tyler and Greg came back completely inspired by the visit—if you see any unconventional farming techniques taking place at Double H Farm or Glen Leven, you’ll know where the inspiration came from.
And so concluded a magical visit to a beautiful state. We can’t wait to visit our sister property, Keswick Hall, again. In the mean time, be sure to put Keswick Hall at the top of your travel list. Be sure to say hello to everyone from us.
Until next time, Virginia.