“It started raining sideways. Can I call you back?”
This is life on the farm, the new reality for Pamela Jones and Sarah Waybright, who are turning a former Middleburg horse pasture into Gathering Springs Farm.
The two were out in the field, Jones on a tractor, Waybright ducking for cover as she discussed their plans for not only creating a beyond-organic farm, but one employing regenerative soil management to boost the health of the land. They won’t be tilling the soil—which breaks up the fungal web and the channels built by roots and worms, keeping the soil healthy by distributing nutrients and water—or spraying synthetic fertilizers.
Waybright, who grew up on a dairy farm and is a registered dietitian, met Jones, a two-time, gold medal-winning Paralympic rower (London 2012 and Rio 2016) while working at Potomac Vegetable Farms in Vienna.
Training three times a day as a full-time athlete, Jones says she “took a strong look at what I fuel my body with,” and became so enamored with nutrition, she decided to take it a step further by learning about the farming process.
Jones and her husband, who is also involved in the venture, bought the land as a homesteading project. But as the two women worked together at the farm, they thought, says Waybright, “What could be possible if we could both be doing it?”
With 2019 as their inaugural season, the scope of their grand plans are tame compared to what they eventually want to do with their land.
This week, they’re planting scallions, arugula, spinach, radishes, beets and joi choi, a member of the bok choy, Asian cabbage family and because of its higher heat tolerance, can last into the warmer months. They’ll bring their haul to the Middleburg Community Farmers Market, as well as start a pick-your-own CSA: pay upfront (22 weeks for $500 to $845) and select from that week’s offerings at their stand at the market.
Beyond selling vegetables, the team wants to educate consumers about sustainable farming and foods. They will hold farm-to-table dinners and classes, from yoga-on-the-farm to those teaching canning and fermenting, and are also growing an excess of Napa cabbage for kimchi workshops. Because cabbage depletes the soil of nitrogen, nitrogen-fixer legumes (peas, beans) will go in the ground next. It’s all a part of the yearslong process to keep the soil happy.
Until the Middleburg market debuts this season on May 4, meet Gathering Springs Farm at the Middleburg HEALth Fair & 5K this Saturday, March 30.
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