Sperryville column: Successful, sustainable Molly

Molly Peterson spends some quality time with a few of the residents of Heritage Hollow Farm.courtesy of Molly Peterson
Molly Peterson spends some quality time with a few of the residents of Heritage Hollow Farm.

Molly Peterson is a Rappahannock treasure and a tireless cheerleader — and on-the-ground trooper — for local food and sustainable farming. She and husband Mike run the grass-fed livestock and marketing operations of Sperryville’s Heritage Hollow Farms. She’s also a talented photographer who recently completed a collaboration with Forrest Pritchard, international bestselling author and champion of sustainable farming and the “local food heroes” who make it happen.

Several years back, Molly’s photograph graced the cover of Forrest’s bestselling book, “Gaining Ground.” And when he had the idea for his newest book, “Growing Tomorrow,” a “farm-to-table journey in photos and recipes,” according to Forrest, he thought of no one but Molly to accompany his writing with her spectacular photos. The book is a behind-the-scenes look at “18 extraordinary sustainable farmers across the country who are changing the way we eat.”

The just-published book is already among the top five Amazon bestsellers for the mid- and north-Atlantic, and is getting much recognition in the regional American cookbook category.

Farmer-photographer Molly Peterson and farmer-writer Forrest Pritchard with their new book.courtesy photo
Farmer-photographer Molly Peterson and farmer-writer Forrest Pritchard with their new book.

Between photography and farming and book-touring duties, Molly also recently fostered a beautiful horse named Pajamas, a victim of a notorious animal abuse case.

Molly and her husband Mike have their farm store in the Copper Fox Antiques complex, where they showcase their pasture-raised meats, beef, lamb, pork and eggs. One local activity enjoyed, and even counted on, by many who pass through Sperryville, is being stopped briefly by sheriff’s deputies while she and Mike quietly move the cattle and sheep across U.S. 211 to get to the new grass that awaits them on the other side. “Molly and her husband Mike are poster kids for regenerative agriculture and a source for healthy and great food,” friend and associate Steven Schwartz said. “And they are nice people as well!”

The farm store also holds Molly’s bustling and successful photography studio. Her photos adorn the walls of local businesses, banks and restaurants and illustrate her favorite subjects, the Rappahannock countryside and the living creatures whose simple beauty she effortlessly captures. A professional photographer for more than 10 years, from the mountains of Aspen to the Virginia Piedmont, Molly has been a two-time finalist for the American Society of Magazine Editors’ annual “Best Cover” award.

Molly smiles when she tells how she and Forrest came to work together. “We had met over time at peer-related (pasture-based) farming events and discovered that we’re both pasture-based farmers, and that he’s from Berryville and I’m from Sperryville. When he pitched his new idea to me along with Rachel and Eric Plaksin at Waterpenny Farm, I immediately said, I’m in! We traveled the countryside by car, and plane, visiting a diverse group of multi-generational, family-owned and -operated sustainable farms. We traveled 17 states and visited 18 farms. It was so inspirational to find that we all spoke the same language, shared the same frustrations and triumphs. And we all wanted the same thing — healthy, successful, sustainable farming.”

She and Mike also just hosted, for the second time in 2015, an extraordinarily successful farm-to-table dinner at the Griffin Tavern. Mike, a former chef, not only provided the food, but also designed and executed the menu, and guests enjoyed Griffin chef Rachel Rowland’s culinary artistry.

When I ask Molly to whom she attributes much of her success, she paraphrases, in her typically quiet and humble way of speaking, something that Pharrell Williams, recipient of 10 Grammy awards, said while he was being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey: “So many people conspired to get me here, whether they knew it or not, so my goal is to make them proud.”

For information on the newly published book, visit growingtomorrowbook.com. For more about Molly and Mike’s farm (and a taste of Molly’s farm photography), visit heritagehollowfarms.net.

Eggsactly what Laurel Mills needed

Laurel Mills Store in Castleton is enjoying a rebirth under the stewardship of Susan Marshall and Chris Jones. Shelves are stocking up, a beer and wine liquor license has just arrived, as have fresh meats and locally raised vegetables and delicious cheeses and sandwiches. More plans are underway. On a warm sunny, Sunday morning, the popular porch was bustling with patrons, including Mary Francis Fannon, while Susan was busy behind the register, ringing up groceries, coffee and breakfast buns.

Fresh eggs are now being offered, from the farm of our own Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff. There was laughter all around as porch patrons celebrated the “super egg,” or a double-yolk specimen found in one of the egg cartons. Clearly everyone was happy that the Laurel Mills Store, which has opened and closed and opened again as it changed hands over the last few years, had hatched yet another new life.

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