The developers of Willowsford, a few miles west of Dulles Airport, tout amenities common to new communities: parks, community centers and a future regional library. But the biggest draw might be the farmland woven into the fabric of the community.
Willowsford operates a farm stand that sells food grown on site, conducts classes on cooking local seasonal produce, and offers farm-themed camps and educational experiences for children.
“It’s a great way to raise my kids so they can understand where their food comes from,” said Jill Nolton, who moved to Willowsford about two years ago with her husband and two children.
“We’re pulling things out of the ground [that are] ending up on our table the next day,” she said. “The food is so good and helps them understand eating healthily, eating seasonally and really knowing what farm-to-table actually means.”
Willowsford is a 4,000-acre development consisting of four villages stretching south from Evergreen Mills Road near Brambleton to the Prince William County line at Bull Run. Each of the villages will include active farmland, and there will be three farm stands, said Brian Cullen, who heads Willowsford’s development team.
The development is in Loudoun’s “transition area,” which serves as a buffer between suburban subdivisions and the rural western end. Under the densities allowed by zoning regulations, half the land is being kept as open space, Cullen said. The rest will be used for residential development.
About 300 acres of the open space will be used for working farms, Cullen said. A 25-acre plot in the village known as the Grange, near Fleetwood and Evergreen Mills roads, is now being farmed, he said.
Most days, the director of farm operations, Mike Snow, and a crew of five seasonal employees are working in the fields, growing fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. The farm raises chickens for meat and eggs and has goats to help control vegetation, Snow said.
Sundays from May to November are volunteer days, when residents are encouraged to work in the fields for a few hours, said Deb Gramby, the farm’s volunteer and education coordinator.
Nolton and her family volunteered at the farm last Sunday, collecting eggs and pulling up perennials to prepare the beds for winter. Nolton’s son David, 10, said he learned how to recognize which hens are likely to have eggs and how to pick up the birds.
“You push down lightly, and if they squat, that means you can pick them up,” he said.
Much of the farm’s produce is distributed through Willowsford’s CSA (community-supported agriculture), which provides a weekly share of food to about 215 subscribers, Cullen said. The CSA offers 150 varieties of organically grown vegetables and fruits, including greens, root vegetables, peppers and berries, he said, adding that the farm stand and CSA are open to people who live outside Willowsford.
Some of the people who buy food through the cooperative need guidance on how to prepare it, Willowsford spokeswoman Laura Cole said. Culinary director Bonnie Moore offers classes and demonstrations in community center kitchens “to demystify the process.” There is also a weekly newsletter to provide information on how to store, prepare and preserve the food, Cole said.
Cooking classes and other activities for children — including a summer camp and volunteer opportunities at the farm — are also popular, Cole said. At the summer camp, children spent a day picking crops, followed by a day in the kitchen, preparing a meal for their parents.
“Being in a neighborhood that’s so family-friendly, with so many amenities, especially the farm . . . was a very big draw for us,” said Meghan Corbitt, who moved with her family to Willowsford two years ago. “Everything is about family and being outdoors.”
Barnes is a freelance writer.