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By Dawn Klavon
This spring, as the world struggles to adjust to supply chain issues, food security challenges and a new normal, Prince William farmers stand ready to offer true grass-roots products and experiences to bring us back to nature and build community.
The Honor System
“We had no idea when we started that it would take off like it did,” said Sarah Desmedt, Co-owner of Bloom Flower Farm in Nokesville.
Desmedt grows assorted flowers and offers freshly arranged bouquets at her stand at the end of the 17-acre farm’s driveway. In addition, the stand offers seasonal blackberries and fresh eggs, collected by her 15-year-old son, Andy.
“Our mission is to serve the community with something positive,” Desmedt said.
It’s like something out of a bygone era — Bloom Flower Farm’s stand, like many in the area, operates on the honor system, with a chalkboard stating product prices and a secure lock box for depositing cash to cover expenses. Customers can help themselves to the bouquets and just leave the money for payment when they go. Clients can also pre-order flower arrangements on Bloom Flower Farm’s website, pay online and pick up their posies at the stand. Desmedt and her husband, Dan, have found a loyal customer base.
“People know about us and like our farm, and the community around us comes,” she said. “On weekends, we get people from Fairfax and the outlying cities — they’ll drive an hour to come and pick up flowers.”
Jay Yankey’s farm in Nokesville also welcomes agritourism, with spring pick-your-own strawberries in May and a fall pick-your-own pumpkin patch in October. Yankey Farms grows its berries and pumpkins on about 17 acres. Each fall, the farm welcomes thousands of folks eager to pick pumpkins, navigate a corn maze,
enjoy a petting zoo, try out a hayride and more.
“There’s a lot of great opportunities,” Yankey said about agricultural experiences in Prince William. “People get some really, really good products right here in the community and it goes to keeping some land and some of us supported to continue to do what we do.”
Somehow Yankey manages to hold down a full-time job while running the farm, which also grows corn, soybeans and hay. In addition to Yankey’s pick-your-own farm, he offers a summertime roadside stand with a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. All the vegetables are home grown, and the fruits are sold through a partnership with another local farmer. Yankey’s stand is also run on the honor system.
“With an ever-growing population in the area, certainly demand keeps increasing,” Yankey said, adding that food security issues and supply chain challenges have forced some consumers to lean into their local farms for produce.
Yankey’s farm participates in a community-supported agriculture, or CSA, program, which is generally a subscription program for fresh, local fruits and vegetables. The program covers a minimum of between 16 and 18 weeks of distribution, depending on the growing season.
“We’ve got about 150 shares that people buy in at the beginning of the season,” Yankey said. “Then, from May to November, each week pick up a box of in-season fruits and vegetables.”
Yankey Farms offers two sizes for CSA orders: the half bushel and full bushel, suggesting the half bushel is ideal for individuals, couples or small families and the full bushel shares are great for those families with more mouths to feed.
Yankey said there are generally four to six weeks of spring produce pickups, then the farm takes a few weeks off before starting their summer harvest. Subscribers pick up their weekly share at Yankey’s farm and can choose their pickup day and time.
Cinnamon Buns, Anyone?
Andrew and Nina Fleischauer operate Sunshine Honey Farm Stand in Nokesville and bring the basics — fresh produce from their 10-acre farm — but here’s their bonus: high quality proteins, aka beef, pork, turkey and chicken.
“We’re raising a variety of animals on pasture with regenerative agriculture,” Nina said. “We aim to make the soil better, make the environment better, raise the animals with a really great quality of life — and in turn, foods that we eat from them are the best that they can be.”
Plus, Andrew is the executive chef at a Bethesda restaurant and spends his downtime baking and making jars of fabulous fruit jam for Sunshine Honey. (Note: The jam recipe was passed down from Andrew’s grandmother.) It started when Andrew was raising money to go to the New York City Marathon and sold baked goods to make it happen. Once the couple opened the farm stand at the end of their driveway, customers wanted more.
“Friends and neighbors and colleagues that knew what we did were also asking for the English muffins we’d made before, and the cinnamon rolls, and ‘Where’s your Andy Jam?’” Nina said. “It didn’t take long until we had more baked goods in our stand than we did vegetables!”
Sunshine Honey Farm Stand is generally open weekends from June through October and takes pre-orders as well. With a strong presence on social media, Nina said they post what baked goods will be available any given weekend. The farm also hosts tours “in the comfortable months,” she said, which take about 45
minutes. Guests can see the working farm’s crops, land and most popular — the animals.
“We love doing it,” Nina said. “Our cow, Jolene, knows more people in Nokesville than I do.”
Tourists will also be greeted by two shy but adorable sheep, turkeys, chickens, pigs and bees. The animals are raised to live a simple, healthy life, and visitors of all ages seem to enjoy the adventure.
“Just the crazy life that we live in Northern Virginia that’s ‘go -go- go-go’ all the time,” she said. “Come out here. It’s so close to the suburbs and to the city, yet it feels like it’s a whole different place. It’s a really wonderful, wonderful place to kind of catch your breath and maybe recenter your perspective.”
Tiptoe Through the Tulips
You might think you’ve been transported to Holland.
Since 2012, for about three weeks every April, Burnside Farms in Nokesville has held their Festival of Spring. With more than two million tulips and a half-million daffodils planted each year, the bountiful farm brings a little slice of the Netherlands to Virginia. It’s actually one of the longest running spring festivals of its kind in North America, according to the owners.
“It is just a feel-good event,” said Leslie Dawley, owner of Burnside Farms. “It fills you with such joy.”
At the festival, visitors are welcomed by a stunning landscape of multicolored flowers as far as the eye can see. Come ready to pick posies — choose from over 400 varieties of tulips and more than 30 varieties of daffodils. Each adult ticket price includes some flowers, and visitors can pay for additional flowers separately. The farm provides large baskets for collecting the flowers, as well as whimsical wooden clogs to make the experience that much more memorable. The festival also serves as the backdrop for countless
photo opportunities, from marriage proposals to maternity portraits to baby pictures.
Due to COVID-19, owners have limited entry to the farm to avoid large groups at any given time. Visitors must buy their nonrefundable tickets online in advance, and the farm’s website and social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram) keep tourists updated on details.
“We usually sell tickets just a few days before you may come, based on the weather,” said Dawley. The farm is considering season passes this year as well, and details will be forthcoming on Burnside’s website.
All around, the Burnside experience is delightful. Guests can bring a picnic and relax in the courtyard of the 100-year-old dairy barn. On weekends, local food vendors set up outside the picnic area, as well. The farm also offers fun activities for all ages, like wagon rides into the fields, cornhole, grain bin basketball, inflatable slides, short-film cinema in the barn, giant LEGOs and more.
From mid-July through Labor Day, Burnside Farms also welcomes guests to experience their Summer of Sunflowers, offering more than 30 varieties of sunflowers on more than 20 acres. If you get your timing right, you’ll be able to check out one of America’s only sunflower mazes, as well.
Burnside Farms’ most beloved summer event is Sunflower Sunsets, taking place summer evenings from 5 to 8 p.m. Visitors bring dinners and stretch out picnic blankets right in the breathtaking sunflower fields.
“When they leave, their spirits are lifted,” Dawley said. “Regardless of what you left behind when you walked in the gate, you walk out feeling a bit lighter and happier.”
Get Back to Nature
Whether you’re eager to pick your own tulips, strawberries, sunflowers or pumpkins, try some freshly harvested farm-stand produce, indulge in Andrew Fleischauer’s third generation jam, meet Jolene the cow at Sunshine Honey Farm Stand, or pick up Bloom Flower Stand’s colorful mixed bouquets, the opportunities in Prince William are aplenty when it comes to agritourism. Check the farms’ social media accounts and websites often for updates on product availability and special offers. Also, contact local farms to schedule tours and to preorder products.
“I always say, ‘Food for the body, and flowers for the soul,” said Dawley.
Bloom Flower Farm | 11045 Manley Road, Nokesville | 703-851-2576
Yankey Farms Pick Your Own Strawberries and Pumpkins | 14039 Owls Nest Road, Nokesville
Produce Stand and CSA Pickup Location: 14841 Glenkirk Road, Nokesville | 703-618-3782
Sunshine Honey Farm Stand | 10725 Lonesome Road, Nokesville
Burnside Farms | 11008 Kettle Run Road, Nokesville | 703-930-3052
Dawn Klavon is a journalist, author, media director and recent transplant to NOVA. She thrives on juggling multiple projects, discovering local hot spots, consuming blue crab and conquering sudoku puzzles. Dawn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.