The Farm at Sunnyside is growing healthier

Washington farm creating ‘nutrient dense’ vitamin packed produce

By Katie Yeager
Special to the Rappahannock News

Change is afoot at The Farm at Sunnyside, where because of its unusual methods and dedication to producing wholesome products the Rappahannock County farm outside Washington is now able to create “nutrient dense” foods that uphold a healthier lifestyle.

“There is this term called nutrient density, and we are trying to have that in our food,” stated farm manager Stacey Carlberg. “It’s packed full of vitamins and when you eat that produce you feel more satiated because it is healthier.”

The Farm at Sunnyside advocates and practices methods of sustainable agriculture. The farm, bordering Shenandoah National Park, embodies a mission of conservation and wildlife preservation while also continuing to produce organic crops for the community.

An astounding 50 different types of vegetables are grown on the farm alone, not including subcategories of each type. In addition to the impressive list of veggies from the farm, fruits such as apples and asian pears are grown within the property’s orchard.

Despite the impressive inventory, only about ten percent of the 50 acre farm is currently being used towards crop production. Other areas of the property are used to protect native virginian species of grasses and plants that are habitats to wildlife, including birds that prey on crop parasites.

This approach to farming, although untraditional, works best for the farm’s mission to combine wildlife preservation with sustainable farming.

“Wildlife preservation and farming don’t have to be at odds, we work together on this farm,” said Stacey.

It’s easier than you would think to buy your nutrient dense produce from the farm. The Farm at Sunnyside often goes mobile on the weekends at farmers market such as the Dupont Farmers Market and the Reston Market. If farmers markets aren’t your style, the farm also offers a program called CSA (community supported agriculture), a 25 week program that provides crops in exchange for purchasing an upfront share in the program.

With all of these components, its difficult to run a business, but farm managers Stacey and her husband Casey Carlberg take things to the next level by embracing the organic agriculture lifestyle. The duo “wears all of the hats” at The Farm at Sunnyside, taking care of everything from accounting to marketing, and of course getting their hands dirty in the fields.

Between the two, degrees in Ecology and Environmental Biology demonstrate their long term investment to the study and improvement of sustainable farming. Limiting dangerous pesticides and increasing soil nutrients is a large part of what makes The Farm at Sunnyside’s produce so sought after.

“We look at soil tests,” explained Casey. “We look at the soil chemistry… including the micronutrients, just as human beings need those things to be healthy, so does the soil and plant.”

The discipline of growing food is taken quite seriously at The Farm at Sunnyside, Casey and Stacey often use their extensive knowledge of agricultural science to the workplace.

“We deal with chemistry, but most importantly as organic farmers, we deal with biology,” Casey stated. “We make our own compost here on the farm, about 150 tons of it per year. We spread a very thin layer on all of our fields each year.”

It’s evident just how much the farm staff cares about their produce in their efforts to grow wholesome crops, and one could argue that The Farm at Sunnyside is a monument to sustainable farming right here in Rappahannock County.

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