When it comes to farming, nothing replaces good, old-fashioned, hands-on experience - almost 40 years of experience for the owners of this month’s featured farm. Deer Run Farm in Hanover, VA is run by husband and wife team Chris and Britney Rudolph, and though they’ve officially been in business since they purchased their land in King William County in 2005, their journey began far earlier.
Farming runs in the family: Chris’ parents are also farmers, and the family-run Pleasant Fields Farm offered Chris and Britney an early opportunity for hands-on learning. Starting in 1979, they found their passion for farming, and when it came time to venture out on their own, they decided to keep family farming efforts close to home by purchasing the land literally across the street from Pleasant Fields.
Though they purchased Deer Run Farm in 2005, it took a few years for the Rudolphs to ramp up production. After pursuing farming on the side for four years, tending to plants late in the afternoon and on weekends, they decided to go all in. Today, Chris, Britney and their two daughters, Emily and Sydney, tend the land together - a true family affair. While it remains to be seen whether either of the Rudolphs’ daughters will be interested in continuing the farm as a long-term plan, as with everything on the farm, time will tell.
With nearly 100 acres of land in production today, the Rudolphs are able to grow a wide variety of produce, including heirloom and regular tomatoes, potatoes, beans, cucumbers, zucchini and squash, beets, onions, blueberries, peppers, and eggplant. In all, they grow over 40 different varieties of fruits and vegetables, and their offerings also extend beyond produce with local honey, herbs, eggs, flowers, and even hay.
Conventional Farming? Not Really
Though Deer Run Farm is considered a conventional farm, the Rudolphs pride themselves on curbing disease and supporting healthy plants the old-fashioned way. They strive for sustainability while also making the most of each planting and harvest. Regular crop rotation keeps both plants and soil happy and healthy; the family also employs trickle irrigation, an efficient and effective alternative to overhead watering. In overhead watering, up to 30 percent of the water evaporates before it reaches the root zone, and the moisture left on plants leaves them more susceptible to disease. Furthermore, because the soil is kept consistently and evenly moist, plants grown with a drip irrigation system often yield larger and more prolific vegetables. These tactics, coupled with the fervent requests from consumers not to spray their crops, make Deer Run Farm a far more sustainable environment than their conventional designation suggests.
The Rudolphs’ willingness to meet their buyers’ demands for clean, untreated produce is admirable, especially given consumers’ desires for perfect and beautiful fruits and veggies, which are much harder to grow with organic methods. But thanks to partnerships with organic proponents like Ginger Rucker, owner and chef of Making It Real (who has been purchasing from Deer Run for over a decade), these local conventional farmers are listening, learning, and trying new techniques.
Want to support Deer Run’s efforts? They’ve made it easy to do so by bringing their crops to market all around town. Seek out their booth at Birdhouse Farmers Market, Ashland Farmers Market, Manakin Market, or Lakeside Farmers’ Market, or snag their tasty fresh produce through the online co-op run by Fall Line Farms. With so many ways to access their produce, Deer Run Farm is practically bringing convenience to you. But you’ll still have to cook it yourself… unless you ask Making It Real to whip up a homemade meal full of Deer Run produce just for you!