Farming For the Future: Making sure there’s still land for future farms

Farm 5The initial idea for a Virginia Farms program began as an attempt to work a pun into publication. “VA Farms. Is that like farms that operate in Virginia? Or is it an action? Who farms? Virginia Farms!”

At its heart, VA Farms is a continuing project to tell the story of modern agriculture. It brings those stories and the people from local farms to Frying Pan Farm Park to meet park visitors. As a historic site, part of Frying Pan Farm Park’s mission is to educate visitors about how farmers once operated in this part of Fairfax County. The truth is, farming is still conducted in and around Fairfax; it just has a different face. Several faces, actually. The VA Farms program brings those faces to people who eat food from farms, and it aims to balance past and present and to inspire engagement in local food systems.

Farm 4When food consumers meet food producers, a bond forms. This connection to food is lost while shopping at the grocery store when all that can be observed is the same stock-photo produce and meat. It’s easy for an uninvolved consumer to take the hard work that goes into producing these products for granted. When we hear producers’ stories first hand, a certain appreciation and respect develops toward the food purchased from these small farms. When respect is exhibited for food, there follows a reduction in waste and a greater appreciation for our farmers.

Farm 1Respect is not held solely by the consumer. In recent years, soil has been classified as a non-renewable resource. In kind, this new brand of small-scale production does not strictly consider profit margins to be the exclusive ambition of the business. These Virginia farmers use sustainable practices in their farming techniques to be better land stewards. It appears that they are not farming for today, but for future generations in their efforts to rehabilitate the land.

Their stories have had a provocative impact on me as a farm employee. For the past four or five seasons, I have worked with Floris Elementary, a school just a stone’s throw from the farm. Each year, the school’s Green Team, an environmentally-focused group of youngsters, came to the farm to learn about gardening. At the end of the school year, they harvested what was grown and shared it with their friends at lunch. This year, the park will explore a new farming venture. Developing a Farm to School Program with Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is in the research phase. FCPS’ Office of Food and Nutrition Services has placed a high value on sourcing locally-produced foods by hiring a Farm to Cafeteria Coordinator. This coordinator seeks funding to purchase locally-grown foods and has installed salad bar options in the school system.Farm 6

Frying Pan Farm Park will continue to keep its agricultural spirit alive and hopes to link its farming past to the present need of local food to feed our immediate community.


Author Patrick McNamara is an Interpreter at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, Va. The next Virginia Farms program at Frying Pan will be held on Sunday, March 11, 2018.

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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