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Rivah Visitor's Guide



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Down on the Farm

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The tour on Saturday, May 29, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. includes stops at Richmond County’s Tidewater Dairy Farm, Belle Mount Vineyards and Sabine Hall and Westmoreland County’s Garner’s Produce.

The tour is hosted by the Natural Resources Conservation Services, the Northern Neck Soil and Water Conservation District, Northern Neck Tourism Commission, Virginia Department of Forestry, Virginia Cooperative Extension and Rappahannock Community College and is an effort to promote agritourism and agribusiness while educating.

A free bus service is offered by the Northern Neck Rideshare Program and allows visitors to park their cars at Rappahannock Community College in Warsaw and ride a bus to and from one or all four of the participating farms. The bus will stop at every location every 15 or 20 minutes throughout the day.

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The Piersons have almost 300 Holsteins at Tidewater Dairy Farm, including many calves.
Ladell Pierson quit school when he was 14 years old to take over management of Tidewater Dairy Farm for his ill father.

That was 62 years ago.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes, a lot of changes,” said Pierson, who along with his wife, Charlotte, his brother, Oren, and sons, Danny and David, lives and works on the 150-acre dairy farm near Sharps.

The Piersons farm some 1600 acres but the focus of the tour will be on the land and buildings surrounding Ladell’s home, where 290 Holstein dairy cows reside.

It’s one of two dairy farms left on the Northern Neck and the Piersons are now milking about 136 cows per day.

“There’re no days off,” said Ladell. “We’re up at 5 a.m. to milk and milk every cow twice a day. They come back in at 3:30. We work from 5 to 5:30 six days a week and seven hours on Sunday.”

Back when Ladell was a youngster working at his father’s farm, there were about 50 dairy farmers in the area, he said.

“Now, I’m the only one for six counties,” he said.

Without a bull in the herd, the Piersons artificially inseminate all their cows. The farm includes separate areas for newborn calves, older calves, young cows, expectant moms and milking cows.

“Sometimes in the fall we’ll have four or five calves born a night,” said Ladell, “and I’m here for them all.”

The cows, which were milked by hand when Ladell started, are now milked in a herringbone milking parlor. The milk is pumped through a pipeline to a holding tank, which is emptied every other day by Dairy Farmers of America.

Visitors on tour day will be treated to a tour by Ladell and Charlotte or his sons and grandchildren and can watch a video of the milking operation.

Directions:

From Warsaw, take Rt. 3 east and turn right onto Sharps Road (Rt. 642). Continue 3.2 miles. Continue straight through the intersection with Suggetts Point Road (Rt. 614) and the farm is on the right.

From Lancaster, take Rt. 3 west and turn left onto Sharps Road (Rt. 642). Continue 3.2 miles. Continue straight through the intersection with Suggetts Point Road (Rt. 614) and the farm is on the right.

Address: 122 Suggetts Point Road, Warsaw, Va.

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Visitors can purchase home grown vegetables and fruits, along with flowers, jellies, jams and sauces at Garner’s Produce in Nomini Grove.
Along Route 3 in Nomini Grove there’s a produce stand where fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers abound.

Garner’s Produce, owned and operated by Meade Garner, his daughters, Lora and Dana, and his son-in-law, Bernard Boyle, is open seven days a week March through November.

Located at the Garner homeplace, the farmer’s market is surrounded by 50 acres of farmland that will be open to the public. The Garners actually farm 110 acres total. All but about 50 acres of the farm is dedicated to produce.

“[Production] has flip-flopped,” said Dana. “At first, the farm was mostly grain, now it’s mainly vegetables with a little bit of grain.”

The Garners grow over 40 different crops, with many starting in one of three greenhouses on the property. A high tunnel, heated with a clean burn furnace powered by recycled engine oil, is used to grow tomatoes.

The produce stand, which got its start in the back of Jack Garner’s pickup truck in the early 70s, has grown into a shopping destination with dozens of fresh vegetables, fruits, shrubs, flowers, condiments and sauces.

“There’s always something to do,” said Dana. During farmers’ market season family members awake before sunrise and are usually out the door at 4 a.m.

“Right now we’re planting onions, cleaning blackberries, harvesting asparagus, covering strawberries and uncovering strawberries,” she said.

A graduate of Virginia Tech, Dana says the farm employs four full-time seasonal workers and a few part-time workers along with family members.

During the farm tour, visitors will learn about the many sustainable and best management practices used such as integrated pest management, cover crops and variety selection.

A 4-H club will operate a petting zoo at the farm and the Northern Neck Beekeepers will hold a demonstration. 

Directions:

From Warsaw, take Rt. 3 west approximately six miles. The Garner’s Produce stand is on the right in Nomini Grove.

From Montross, take Rt. 3 east seven miles to Nomini Grove and look for the Farmer’s Market signs.

Address: 22645 Kings Highway, Warsaw, Va.

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Sabine Hall plantation includes some 500 acres of rolling farmland.
Classic Georgian elegance meets modern farming and forestry techniques on this Rappahannock River plantation.

Ninth-generation owners Mr. and Mrs. Robert Carter Wellford IV and Mr. and Mrs. Peter Drayton O’Hara have over 500 acres of farmland and an equivalent amount of forest property on the historic homesite in Warsaw. The owners grow small grain, corn and soybeans and have 27 Black Angus cattle.

Sabine Hall was built in 1738 by Landon Carter, the fourth son of Robert “King” Carter of Corotoman. Both a Virginia and National Historic Landmark, the home will not be open to the public on tour day. However, visitors will pass by the stately mansion along a winding dirt road en route to the Wellford’s farmland and barn, where Carter Wellford will demonstrate a portable sawmill.

Visitors will also learn about forestry techniques used for both pine and hardwood production and take a tour with a wildlife expert to learn about habitats of native species. Learn about Black Angus production and conservation farming practices. Take part in a Northern Neck Master Gardeners plant clinic and purchase a rain barrel.

Hay wagon rides will be available.

Directions:

From Warsaw, travel west on Rt. 360 towards Tappahannock and turn left onto Sabine Hall Road across from the Warsaw Village Shopping Center. Go 1.3 miles to the gated entrance.

From Tappahannock, travel east on Rt. 360 across the Rappahannock River Bridge towards Warsaw. Go approximately 4 miles. Turn right onto Sabine Hall Road. Go 1.3 miles to the gated entrance.

Address: 1694 Sabine Hall Road, Warsaw, Va. 

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In the fall, the vineyards at Belle Mount Vineyards are green and full and ready to be harvested.
Ray and Catherine Petrie have over eight acres of grape vines planted on the rolling hills at Belle Mount Vineyards near Warsaw.

The couple, who moved to the Northern Neck from California, did not have a background in winemaking. In fact, Catherine said her background involved simply “opening a bottle and drinking it.”

But after purchasing the former Heritage Park Campground property 16 years ago, the two decided to dive into the very labor intensive task of winemaking.

Catherine says she and her husband spent about two years researching the trade before planting the first vine. They planted all 8.5 acres by hand, and they take care of the grounds and harvest the grapes themselves.

On farm day, visitors can tour the vineyards with Ray to learn about the art and science of producing both the classic European and newer hybrid varieties. With a dozen varieties of grapes, the Petries have the native American Norton grape along with many French-American hybrids.

Catherine will offer a complimentary wine tasting in the tasting room beneath a banquet hall with a view of the vineyards. Along with free tastings, the Petries or staff members will also offer advice on food pairings.

Harvest time, usually late August through October, is of course the busiest time at the vineyard.

“There’s a changing attitude about wine,” said Ray. “A couple of years ago the Gallup poll found that wine was the beverage of choice for most Americans.”

The Fredericksburg Spinners and Weaver’s Guild will be on-site to demonstrate yarn skills.

Directions:

From Warsaw, travel west on Rt. 360 towards Tappahannock. Turn right onto Newland Road (Rt. 624). Travel 2.5 miles and turn right into Belle Mount Vineyards.

From Tappahannock, travel east on Rt. 360 across the Rapahannock River Bridge. Turn left on Newland Road (Rt. 624). Travel 2.5 miles and turn right into Belle Mount Vineyards.

Address: 2570 Newland Road, Warsaw, Va.

posted 04.30.2010

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