The Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that has been active in Virginia since 1972. With a mission focused on “Promoting and protecting the natural resources, rural economy, history and beauty of the Virginia Piedmont,” it is easy to see how agriculture plays an important role in the organization. In 2013, PEC was gifted 141 acres at the crossroads of Routes 15 and 50, which at one point had been threatened by a large residential and commercial development proposal. The property became known as Roundabout Meadows.
In evaluating what the future held for the property, honoring its rich agricultural history was paramount. There are several management areas at Roundabout Meadows including 70 acres of rotationally grazed livestock pasture, 30 acres of wildlife habitat, and 40 acres that is now home to the Community Farm.
PEC’s Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows launched in early 2019 with two very simple goals in mind — to better connect area residents to Loudoun County’s rich agricultural land and help improve access to quality, fresh produce for underserved populations. The Community Farm is thrilled to have partnered with Loudoun Hunger Relief, a relationship that ensures that the produce we grow goes directly into the community and into the hands of those who need it most. The efforts of the Community Farm are largely driven by a dedicated group of volunteers. Our volunteers play a critical role in every step of our production. From sowing seeds in the greenhouse over the winter, planting and harvesting throughout the spring and summer, to prepping new fields in the fall.
In addition to our volunteer opportunities, the Community Farm hosts a variety of educational programs throughout the year for adults, schools, and beginning farmers. Thus far we have offered lectures on pest identification and management, irrigation design and food safety, and promoting wildlife habitat on the farm. Many of our programs are framed by the work we are doing to restore the property and improve the agricultural ecosystem.
A year ago, the area that is now in production was overgrown with cedar trees, brambles, and a wide variety of other invasive species. An important part of the story of the Community Farm is how we are reclaiming this previously overgrown area, nurturing the soil, and returning it to productivity by utilizing regenerative techniques. We have done so by clearing the invasives with a forestry mulcher, limiting our tillage wherever possible, and adding organic matter to the soil through cover crops and compost. While the poor quality of the soil may mean lower yields in our initial seasons, we know that the long term rehabilitation of the soil will lead to abundance in the future.
We hope everyone will join us in celebrating our inaugural year at our Family Day at the Community Farm on October 13th from 11 AM until 3 PM. To learn more about the Community Farm please visit www.pecva.og/farm.
Written by Dana Melby, PEC’s Community Farm Manager. Contact Dana at firstname.lastname@example.org