The Richmond area is rife with local farms, farmers markets and farm-to-fork restaurants. Many of us are discovering the wonder and joy of knowing exactly where our food comes from. It fosters a strong sense of connection — not just to our food and the whole process of creating it, but also to the men and women who have chosen the farming life and make these meals possible for the rest of us.
Eugene Hudders, Foraged Kingdom
Eugene was always fond of nature and exploring the outdoors, but it was only about 12 years ago that he began hunting mushrooms in earnest. He had gotten his first taste of morel — a sought-after mushroom with a nutty, meaty taste said to rival that of a well-seasoned filet mignon — and just like that, he had found his vocation.
He spent the next several years with his nose in mycology books, learning to identify, forage, and cook them. He holds a certification in mushroom foraging and does most of it in the certified organic and certified biodynamic Crickets Cove Farm, owned by Marianne Cicala in Kenbridge. Biodynamic certification, though less well-known, is similar to organic certification, but with additional requirements such as the creation and management of a closed system minimally dependent on imported materials, instead meeting its needs from the living dynamics of the farm itself.
This means that all mushrooms that Eugene forages and cultivates on Crickets Cove will be certified organic and certified biodynamic as well — a winning combination and perhaps the only one of its kind in the state.
Eugene’s zeal for mushrooms (and food) is infectious. His years of study have shown him the pivotal and indispensable role of mushrooms in sustaining life on earth, and his company is dedicated to all-sustainable practices. Give him a call and he may even take you on a mushroom-hunting expedition of a lifetime.
Twigs & Berries store in Kenbridge (approximately 70 southwest of Richmond in Lunenburg County) for mushrooms; The Horseshoe in South Hill (approximately 85 miles SW of Richmond in Mecklenburg County) for his cooking; and the Broken Tulip in Carytown for some dishes crafted out of foraged wonders | 434-865-0059
John & Chris Allen, Fresh Branch Farm
Grass-fed beef; free-range eggs; and seasonal fruits and vegetables
In 2012, John’s mother was having a yard sale on her Chesterfield property, where her son and daughter-in-law happened to grow some pumpkins that were ready for harvest. That was the beginning of John and Chris’s foray into farming, which has now expanded to farming Piedmontese cows for beef, eggs and a variety of produce. Sometimes, their produce lands on the shelves of Ellwood Thompson. Most of the time, they prefer to sell their products on-site to people they know.
“It keeps us honest,” says Chris. The husband-wife team split all the work on the farm between themselves. John serves as the farm’s “tractor man” when he’s home from his full-time environmental protection job. He does the heavy lifting, coop-building and fence-moving — an important part of the strip-grazing method they practice with their cows.
Chris manages day-to-day operations and marketing, and passes on her knowledge to the community by teaching Chesterfield County School teachers how to hatch eggs, allowing them to give their students a richer and more memorable experience in agriculture and embryology classes. Now if only we had all done that in school!
9900 Woodpecker Road, Chesterfield, Virginia | Fresh Branch Farm on Facebook
Lisa Dearden, RVAg | Chiknegg Productions | Hooked on Alpacas
Farmers markets, an incubator kitchen and alpaca textiles
Lisa Dearden is a superwoman with a passion for sustainable agriculture. She draws from 20+ years of experience in sales, marketing, finance and training, which she now lends (and how generously!) to the sustainable agriculture movement in the region. Aside from running two farmers markets through RVAg and serving as treasurer for the Virginia Farmers Market Association, she also owns ChiknEGG Productions, a company that assists up-and-coming food entrepreneurs and organizations by providing training, consulting and an incubator kitchen.
Among her great contributions to sustainable agriculture in the region is initiating a conversation between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health to streamline state regulations governing farmers markets, which, as we can all see, is thriving.
To top it off, she runs an alpaca farm on the side, selling fibers and weaving and designing textile art.
Stan & Nicole Schermerhorn, A Thyme to Plant | Shaun Mercer, Lavender Fields Herb Farm
Organic herb plants; raw honey; and classes for various interests
Lavender Fields, nestled in a quiet corner of Glen Allen, houses A Thyme to Plant — a direct-to-store herb farm boasting some 250 varieties of USDA certified organic herbs. They sell “starts” — those small pots of herbs you can take home and grow yourself — to numerous stores in Virginia, Maryland and DC, including Whole Foods.
Nicole and Stan Schermerhorn have run A Thyme to Plant for almost two decades, and the farmland has been in their family for 200 years. They work full-time, year-round, building their own greenhouses, operating machinery, devising contraptions to minimize problems and maximize space, and even watering herbs by hand.
“We’ve made a family here,” says Nicole, of clients, other farmers and employees, both full-time and seasonal-but-returning (some of them former interns, all of them eventual friends). Her nephew, Shaun Mercer, who, like Nicole, moved to Richmond from Australia, now manages Lavender Fields, hosting tours, classes, seasonal activities for the whole family (butterflies, lavenders, face painting!) and managing the retail store where you and I can get a sampling of herbs and their amazing honey.
11300 Winfrey Road, Glen Allen, Virginia | LavenderFieldsFarm.com