Ayrshire Farm is perhaps one of the most innovative farms in the Piedmont region of Northern Virginia—a region of gently rolling land that stretches from the Tidewater area to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Although it’s an hour or less from the urban bustle of Washington, D.C., the Piedmont is known for its wheat and corn production, and cattle and horse farms abound. Situated on 800 acres of land east of the Shenandoah River, Ayrshire Farm operates much as a 19th century working manor farm would have done. That may seem like a quaint step back in time, but the philosophy behind this farm is anything but old-fashioned: It’s the first farm in Virginia to be both Certified Humane and certified organic according to federal organic standards. The farm’s Web site points out that a working manor farm was “…historically a place of efficiency, sufficiency, and serenity,” concepts that are both thoroughly traditional and entirely up to date. At Ayrshire Farm, they believe that the health of humans, animals and the earth are intertwined, and that this demands an integrated approach to farming and environmental stewardship.
When Sandy Lerner bought the property in 1996, her goal was to farm the land in a sustainable way and to produce healthy, delicious food.
The livestock includes such exotic varieties as ancient White Park cattle descended directly from a 13th century herd in Chillingham, Northumberland, England, and Gloucestershire
Old Spot pigs, of which there are only 200 left worldwide. The farm is also known for their Shire horses, an elegant, sturdy working breed that’s rare these days—there are only 4,000 left worldwide. Crops and livestock are rotated regularly so that no section of the farm is ever over-cultivated or over-grazed. Farm soil is kept healthy and fertile by extensive composting, and animals are raised according to the strictest standards of humane husbandry.
But there’s much more than just farming going on at Ayrshire.
Farm personnel compete with the Shire horses in many draft and carriage horse shows, and the farm’s woodlands and fields are tended as “wildlife corridors” where farm-raised wild pheasants and turkeys are released, and native trees, plants and grasses are planted.
Ayrshire Farm also has a strong commitment to education—4-H students work on the farm to learn about gardening and animal husbandry, and through a partnership with International Exchange for Agriculture, apprentices from around the world have the chance to live at Ayrshire Farm and learn about the farm’s sustainable agricultural methods. In addition to all of this, the farm is associated with the nearby Hunter’s Head Tavern, an English style pub that gets its meat, dairy and some seasonal produce from the farm. Hunter’s Head, like the farm, is completely Certified Humane, and that’s helped make it popular with Upperville locals and tourists alike.
Ayrshire Farm is a wonderful blend of old-fashioned farming techniques, contemporary agricultural science and ideals of environmental stewardship. The farm’s mission is to “… bring livestock and crop production to both self-sufficiency and profitability. …We are committed to the health and well being of our animals, of one another and of the earth.” The beauty and success of the farm prove the modern value of this mission, and they prove that truly healthy food comes from a mindful plan for agricultural management—not from chemicals and factory farming methods.
To learn more, visit their website at: Ayrshire Farms
For information on where to find other Certified Humane® products in your area, visit the “Shop” page of HFAC’s website.