We treasure our farms, forests, parks, country roads and open space in Loudoun. While April 22nd is Earth Day, – a time to remind us of how valuable this land is and commit to its preservation- in Loudoun we have countless businesses that partake in sustainability efforts year-round. Read about how these six places have implemented green initiatives, then plan your visit.
Catoctin holds the title of the first legal distillery in Loudoun since before Prohibition. With owners Becky and Scott Harris being leaders in the spirits industry, it’s no surprise that today they also follow sustainability practices in their distilling efforts. About 85 percent of Catoctin’s distillery is powered by solar panels. Not only does this conserve coal and natural gasses, but it also allows energy to be invested into the public grid for others to utilize.
Patowmack Farm was one of the first farm restaurants in the United States as well as one of the earliest to be certified organic. It was in 1986 that Beverly Morton Billand, a nurse and mother of five girls, bought the 40-acre property on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River north of Lucketts. Long before “locavore” was a thing, she was raising her daughters on food found on her farm. Today the restaurant focuses on an ever-rotating menu that features what is grown, foraged and raised on the land. Book in advance for this gem featured by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the Top 50 Restaurants in the World in 2021.
In an industry that prioritizes fast-paced production, Great Country Farms refuses to conform. Great Country Farms adopted the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) sustainability model early on. This model, also referred to as “food with the farmer’s face,” allows Great Country Farms to take time selecting seeds and varieties with a higher nutritional value, better flavor and then grow them using methods that re-purpose the soil. This technique produces the best quality fruits and vegetables, many of which the public can come and pick throughout the year. Great Country Farms allows children to experience life on the farm with various educational programs, wagon rides through the property and a greenhouse station where they can compost their lunch leftovers.
John and Bonnie Branding, owners of Wheatland Spring 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.
Mike and Diane Canney, owners of Sunset Hills Vineyard, had a vision of making fine wine of the highest quality – this is reflected in their award-winning wine and sustainable farming practices. By 2010, Sunset Hills was “turning sunshine into wine” with the installation of 245 solar panels powering a renovated barn turned winemaking facility. They even have Tesla charging stations to further utilize innovative, green technology wherever possible. Their sustainability efforts don’t stop there; they’ve created native plant environments to sustain the migration of bluebirds, feature monarch waystations and special pollinator gardens.
Mary Ellen Taylor is the entrepreneur behind Loudoun’s hydroponic lettuce farm. Endless Summer Harvest grows plants using mineral nutrient solutions in water, without soil. The 12,000 square foot greenhouse is equivalent to 12 acres of traditional farm production and can operate year-round.
Purcellville’s popular public park hosts a family-oriented Earth Day event around the Franklin Park pond. Aimed at raising conservation awareness, multiple themed “stations” will be set up around the perimeter of the pond, each with a different conservation angle. Attendees will get to make earth-friendly crafts, plant their own “salad bowl”, go fishing with an instructor and hike the park’s trails while participating in a scavenger hunt. There is also a “Spring Bonnet” contest, a “Mask Parade”, food stands, gift bags and a DJ spinning nature-friendly tunes. Groups taking part include Loudoun County Master Gardeners and Endless Summer Harvest.