by Annie Young
From James Madison University to a Clarke County farm by way of Cambodia may seem like a circuitous route to many, but that’s exactly how Daniel and Ali Haney found their way home. The couple met at college, and after graduating Ali took an opportunity to work at a small learning center for needy children in Cambodia. After a stint in the states, she returned to Cambodia—this time with Daniel coming along working as an administrator. As they planned their return to the U.S., they talked about finding work that was as rewarding as their community service in Asia.
One of the things they loved most about Cambodia was the outdoor market, where people shopped in the morning and evening every day looking for the best and freshest food. This inspired Ali and Dan to look to agriculture as they transitioned back to the United States. They wondered how could they promote fresh and seasonal food in their lives and community.
After returning to Virginia, Daniel, who grew up in Clarke County, worked as an intern at Smith Meadows farm, learning about sustainable livestock. Then he and Ali started Shenandoah Seasonal farm using some of his parents’ land in Millwood. They began growing vegetables and raising pastured chickens for eggs. The couple married, and Ali started farming full time last spring.
They serve farmers markets in Leesburg and Ashburn, and host a CSA subscription program that operates from June to October.
This time of year is typically not a productive one in the fields for most farmers. But it does not take long to see the difference at Shenandoah Seasonal. Lengths of wire with the ends stuck in the soil form a rainbow shaped tunnel low to the ground. Lifting the edge of the protective cover cloth, rows and rows of green brightly greet you. Arugula, mustard greens, and spinach are all growing–proving that Shenandoah Seasonal is, indeed, a four season farm.
Shenandoah Seasonal uses sustainable and organic growing methods. Using raised beds and covered high tunnels to protect the produce, they can ward off many pests without ever using chemicals. They also use cover crops to add nutrients to the soil instead of synthetic sprays. These intensive methods are a lot of work for the farmer. Valuing quality and sustainable practices even starts with the seeds they use. They use only USDA certified organic seeds from companies that offer heirloom and specialty varieties.
The chickens are raised in pasture, and supplemented with non-genetically modified feed and non- chemical feed. The chickens have plenty of room to graze as they peck through the soil to find bugs and other things they find delectable.
As Shenandoah Seasonal weathers another winter growing for market, they are also preparing for their spring CSA season. Members buy a share before the season starts, then each week pick up their produce from the farm at their new convenient location in Waterloo. The CSA offers a dozen eggs for each customer in addition to the seasonal produce. Vegetables include lettuce, spinach, beets, Swiss chard and herbs in the spring. Summer brings infinite variety, with eggplant, peppers, beans, onions and, of course, tomatoes. Autumn’s seasonal vegetables are lettuce varieties, kale, spinach and onions. The season for the CSA ends in October, but customers can find their produce throughout the winter at the Leesburg Farmers Market.
Check out Shenandoah Seasonal at www.shenandoahseasonal.com or 540-535-5474.