Sunday, July 25, 2010

Keezletown, Virginia: Dave and Lee O'Neill, Radical Roots Community Farm

Our friends at Muddy Bikes told us that we'd be missing something huge if we left Virginia without stopping in on the folks running Radical Roots farm just south of Harrisonburg in Keezletown. We don't want to miss anything, and Trav was of course impressed by the pun in their farm name (I was stumped about what the pun was exactly...Trav obligingly broke it down for me: a radical is the first root a plant puts out in its baby stage of growth).

Radical Roots is a hopeful, new, and already successful model of a diverse biodynamic farm. We saw the beautiful curvy rows of tomatoes and peppers and herbs as we rumbled up the driveway in our faithful Element and met Lee O'Neil at the salad-washing station. An intern was under the roof of the same structure cleaning off new eggs where the cooler hummed and another intern worked opposite of Lee washing greens slowly and methodically so as not to bruise the tender leaves.

Lee's husband David was inside with their 2 kids, supervising nap time, and joined us presently to help get ready for the 2 farmers markets they sell at the following day (every Saturday they sell at Charlottesville and Harrisonburg). Lee told us about the early days when she and Dave were traveling and interning on farms along the west coast and how they were drawn back to VA eventually to start their own place. They very highly value the lessons they learned about treating the land well and sustainability and they strive to pass that knowledge on.

Part of their income is derived by hosting workshops on biodynamics and farm design on their land. Their farm is so pleasing to the eye with its curves and slopes and bioswales (I had never seen bioswales before; they are a flat stretch of land below a crop on a slope that slows erosion and catches water, and they're nice to walk on). Before leaving, Dave and Lee's 5 year old gregarious son ran up to me and put a still warm egg in my hand, fuel for the journey. The O'Neils waved us goodbye with directions to the nearest swimming hole and off we went into the golden day in search of it.


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