I had to visit the farm where this wonderful chicken and lamb came from, so I took the whole family up to Stafford and met Ben’s father, Jeff Adams. Jeff is the owner of Walnut Hill Farm at Elm Springs, a 38 acre property off of Rt. 17, which he and his wife bought 10 years ago. He also leases 240 acres in Fauquier County where he raises sheep and cattle. Formerly an engineer with a degree in Biology, Jeff is a cancer survivor and a diabetic. He decided to take his health into his own hands and start a farm where he could control exactly how his food was produced. It did not take long for him to find out he knew more about farming than he realized. His biology experience prepared him well for farming. Although his wife and son help him with sales, Jeff is the only full-time employee at Walnut Hill.
Jeff was excited to show us around and stressed that he encourages his customers to tour the farm and see how their food is raised. What struck me most about Walnut Hill is how comically free many of the animals were. Burros roam freely amongst the chickens, keeping larger predators (i.e. coyotes) away. Chickens are kept in a specific area to roam, eating cracked corn, and insects. They do however, jump back and forth over the netting, never wandering far from their boundaries. Jeff points out that his chickens are heritage breeds, not the hybrid breeds used in industrial farms. He raises them for a full 10 weeks instead of the industry standard of 42-50 days. He took us out to an enormous and very noisy hoop house which houses the pigs and sheep. He would eventually like to have his pigs pastured as well when he has the resources.
Walnut Hill sells eggs, chicken, lamb, beef and pork at the Spotsylvania Farmers Market on Saturday mornings and at other markets in Dale City and Manassas. They sell right at the farm on Saturdays and Sundays. His meats can also be found at the Harvest Market in the Spotsylvania Courthouse Village. Right now they are taking orders for winter chickens, and their deadline is August 14. Chickens can be ordered to freeze for the winter months when production has stopped. A whole chicken is 10 dollars and there is a minimum order for 5 chickens. I just signed up for 10, and I’m wondering if that’s enough to last from November to May!
I’m happy to have found this unique little farm where the owner is dedicated to delivering a superior product. I am not worried about any chemicals and hormones in the meats that I buy from them. Jeff points out that the cost and hassle of being certified as "organic" are prohibitive and that the certification does not necessarily mean that the animals are raised in a free-range environment. He also mentioned how there is a movement of well-educated and well-informed local farmers that are trying to deliver superior food and raise awareness about the adverse health effects present in our industrialized food system. This is exciting for me and I hope it translates into more kids eating healthier and less contaminated food.
For more information on Walnut Hill Farm visit localharvest.org.