Tom wasn’t raised as a farmer, but after he and his wife Jackie purchased their country home in the beautiful Blue Grass Valley, he began considering the possibilities the land had to offer. He began researching what it would take to create an organic fruit farm that could be managed profitably by a single person. By beginning Sweet Rose Farm and implementing these plans, he hoped to create a replicable model for Highland County and show that high quality, organic produce farming is economically viable for farmers in the area.
Today, Tom aims “to take care of the land in the best way that [he] can and produce the most high quality product possible.” He is Highland’s only certified organic producer and grows a diverse range of fruits and berries as well as asparagus. His young four acre orchard consists of 12 varieties of apples, peaches and Asian pears. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and an asparagus patch round out the farm. Nearby, hives of honey bees help pollinate the fruits and produce honey.
Sweet Rose Farm
Blue Grass, VA
Tom is dedicated to good land stewardship at Sweet Rose Farm. Surrounded by 40 acres of deer fencing, the farm itself is laid out so that “everything is planted with the lay of the land.” In addition to the orchard and berry fields, the farm’s wetland and hillside areas are part of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, a federal land conservation program that protects farmland prone to degradation. Though this area is minimally managed, it is planted with native trees and plants such as pecans, bush cranberries and pawpaws as part of the program. As a certified organic grower, Tom raises his produce without the use of chemically derived pesticides or herbicides. He practices alternative weeding, fertilizing and harvesting techniques. In his design, he has dispersed his own workload by staggering his harvest, by plant type and variety. Through his use of different varieties, Tom helps promote biodiversity, alleviate insect pressure and minimize weather issues such as late frosts. Tom’s dedication to environmental protection extends through the harvest and he uses reusable harvest bins and is committed to sourcing compostable packaging.
Sweet Rose Farm products are available in 16 Whole Foods Market stores in Charlottesville, northern Virginia, the District of Columbia and Maryland. Apples are also sold for juice and applesauce to Andros in Mount Crawford and to LUMI juice in Pennsylvania. For Highland residents, local on farm pickup of produce can be arranged by email or phone. In addition to offering design and technical support to would be organic farmers in the area, Tom and Jackie support the Highland Farmers Market, the Highland Inn, Allegheny Meats, The Highland Center’s Taste of Highland Event and donate produce to charity.