Starting a Natural Livestock Farm
Near the small town of Burkeville, Virginia, sits Waverly Farms, 238 acres of natural and sustainable farmland owned by Stuart and Patti Rosenberg. Before buying the property in 2006, the couple had never farmed. Both had worked in the corporate health care industry.
Stuart, however, had spent childhood summers and holidays on his grandparents’ dairy farm and was always drawn to farming and being active outdoors.
The Rosenbergs launched their adventure with goats. They raise Spanish and Savannah goats, kidding twice a year. Next, they bought a few calves to slow-grow on their pastures, selling the beef locally. After that, they added 100 hens for eggs and then some American Guinea hogs. They also have a few horses and llamas.
Beekeeping was their next project. They keep beehives at their cousin’s place and sell the honey. When neighbors find beehives, they often call the Rosenbergs to see if they would like the hive.
“The bees are fabulous,” says Patti. “Honey is a wonderful product. You don’t have to cook it or clean it or weed it.”
When it came time to plant crops the first spring, Patti decided to go natural. Waverly Farms does not use any pesticides on crops or pastures. Animal manure, excess crops, cover crops, and spoiled hay provide rich compost each year that is applied to the farm’s pastures and gardens.
Produce is sold locally through a CSA (community supported agriculture) program. Waverly Farms CSA boxes are in high demand. “People really do appreciate getting a share of whatever we harvest each week,” says Patti. “They want fresh food and support the way we do things. Our goal is to be a good steward by treating the land sustainably and improving it while we’re here.”
The boxes started out with vegetables and eggs but have expanded. “We added a protein CSA share, which has been amazingly popular,” says Patti. “We give our customers whatever we think they need of our pigs and cows and tell them how to cook everything.”
With all of this extra work, the Rosenbergs count on a few full-time trained farm staff, supplemented by interns, local residents, and apprentices for help.
“We find people who we think would enjoy being here, would want to learn a lot, and would want to chip in,” Patti says. Their two daughters and families visit the farm when they can.
The Rosenbergs hope to increase their production on a larger scale and to be an inspiration to young farmers. “Our mission is to produce food for local people and also to train future farmers,” Patti says.
Staying natural has proved to work for Waverly Farms.
“I thought we’d have lower production, but we don’t,” says Patti. “I thought the vegetables would be smaller or wilted, but they’re not. It’s amazing how easy and less expensive it is to be natural.”
214/914-0323 | waverlyfarmsvirginia.com