We treasure our forests, parks, country roads and open space in Loudoun. While Saturday, April 22 is Earth Day – a time to remind us of how valuable this land is and commit to its preservation – in Loudoun we have scores of farms, gardens and rural businesses that partake in sustainability efforts year-round. Read about how these six places have implemented green initiatives, then plan your visit.
Great Country Farms
Agritourism pioneer Bob Zurschmeide started selling vegetables out of a truck in western Loudoun in the 1980s. Today, his descendants oversee 300-acre Great Country Farms and its winery (Bluemont Vineyard), brewery (Dirt Farm Brewing) and cidery (Henway Hard Cider) spin-offs. “At GCF we practice full circle farming,” farmer Andrew Taylor, Bob’s grandson, said. “Acres of fruit and veg provide a nutrient-rich orchard floor for the sheep, cows and chickens – and fresh produce for customers. Visitors can “pick-your-own” or buy from our farm market while leftovers are then used for composting or feeding pigs to complete the circle.” Agritourism and education are a big component of GCF, with thousands of tourists, students and campers visiting the farm each year. Join them!
Long Stone Farm
Casey and Justin Wisch’s grass-based, pesticide-free livestock operation produces beef, pork, lamb, chicken and eggs for local markets and restaurants. “We focus on natural grazing, letting the animals do the work,” Casey said. On top of operating two farm stores in Loudoun, they host “Sunday Suppers” from May-October: farm tours followed by a meat-centric, four-course dinner prepared by a Loudoun guest chef with wine from a Loudoun winery. “It’s a true farm-to-fork experience,” Casey said. “If I can get my kids to develop a passion for farming and why eating meat and looking after the land is worthwhile, I will be proud.” Visit during the Loudoun County Spring Farm Tour on May 20-21.
Georges Mill Farm
Sam and Molly Kroiz produce artisanal farmstead cheeses from Alpine dairy goats they raise on land that’s been in Sam’s family since the 1750s. The couple practice “regenerative farming” that includes returning pasture to forest and bramble for better browsing. “It’s higher in minerals and protein and the shade in summer means the goats are less stressed and produce more milk,” Molly said. Gallons of whey from the dairy feed their small herd of heritage breed hogs, producing delicious-tasting bacon. Visit their farm store in Lovettsville to pick up meat, eggs, veggies, milk and of course those cheeses.
Wheatland Spring Farm + Brewery
John and Bonnie Branding, owners of this farm brewery outside Waterford, take “local” to new levels with what they call “Land Beer." Brewing with ancient German techniques, they produce perfectly balanced, beautifully packaged ales, lagers, IPAs and stouts. Like an estate winery, Wheatland is considered an estate brewery where 100 percent of the farming operations are dedicated to growing ingredients for the beer. To keep with the sustainability efforts, the owners also repurposed historic buildings for their production facility, tasting room and event space. Oftentimes grains that are spent on Wheatland’s grounds are reused for feeding livestock at neighboring farms.
Sunset Hills Vineyard
Once a working Amish farm, award-wining Sunset Hills Vineyard north of Purcellville adopted sustainable wine making practices long before it was fashionable. Adopting the motto “Turning Sunshine into Wine”, the original owners installed 245 solar panels to power the winemaking facility, which itself was created out of a repurposed barn. Other green innovations include Tesla charging stations in the parking lot and, as an active partner of the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, the winery has Certified Wildlife Habitats on property for native bluebird trails. Taste sunshine in a glass.
National Botanic Garden
On the edge of Dulles Airport in southeast Loudoun, the privately owned National Botanic Garden features 1,000 acres of verdant grounds blooming with daffodils and bluebells, Everglades-style wetlands, a vast sculpture park (the pieces made entirely from recycled materials by Beata Knop), several freshwater lakes and the largest-varietal bamboo forest in the US, shoots from which feed the pandas and elephants in the National Zoo. Open for between 40 and 50 days a year, upcoming events include "Spring into the Gardens” self-guided tours from April 15-23 and the 2nd Annual Art in Nature Festival on May 27-28, featuring walks, art tours, music, wine and beer.
Earth Day Celebration at Franklin Park
Purcellville’s popular public park hosts its annual family-oriented Earth Day event from 12 p.m. -2 p.m. on April 22. Aimed at raising conservation awareness, the event will feature District 84 students, live music, interactive booths, vendors, crafts, games and prizes. Guests young and old can explore the nature garden at North Park, learn how to keep the Earth clean and green and take part in everything from scavenger hunts to making eco-friendly arts and crafts.