RIXEYVILLE, Va. — Stephen and Amanda Day, owners of Starstead Farm, are nearing the end of their fifth growing season in rural Rixeyville, Virginia.
The farm hosted a Chesapeake Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training, or CRAFT, farm tour on Aug. 26.
The two farmers grow a variety of vegetables on about 1 acre of land spread across a much larger land parcel owned by Stephen’s family, which also encompasses his grandparents’ farm called Oak Shade Farm.
When the young couple launched their farm business, they decided to brand it with its own name.
“You have to think about who is involved and what their role is,” Stephen Day said when addressing the decision to name his farm separately from his grandparents’ farm.
That’s not to say that he isn’t grateful for his family’s contributions and inspiration. Stephen and Amanda Day attribute the reality of their farm to the support from both of their families.
Starstead has been growing steadily since its conception five years ago. Since that time the couple has built three high tunnels for tomato production and season extension, through the help of Natural Resources Conservation Service grants.
The farm focuses on vegetable production along with mushrooms, laying hens and honey. The vegetables and mushrooms are certified organic.
These early years on the farm have had their fair share of trial and error.
“We changed the entire orientation of this field,” said Amanda Day, pointing out a plot that was previously oriented north-south but has now been oriented east-west so all crops have equal access to sunlight.
As for advice for other beginning farmer, the couple had quite a bit to say.
“I got this on Craigslist,” said Stephen Day, pointing to the skeleton of their next high tunnel. “If you’re prepared to haul it you can get it cheap.”
The other big piece of advice was to not get in too far over your head.
“We tried shiitakes but found it too expensive since we couldn’t supply our own oak. We also got the chickens right away and have since realized it’s not a profitable venture,” Stephen Day said.
Despite these lessons learned the hard way, they don’t regret their decisions and are seeing steady growth in their operation.
Currently, they sell at two farmers markets — the Warrenton Farmers Market in Warrenton and the Westover Farmers Market in Arlington — and support 35 Community Supported Agriculture members, but are interested in selling at up to three markets and supporting 50-100 CSA shares.
Chesapeake CRAFT will feature two more farm tours this year. To learn more about Chesapeake CRAFT and view the upcoming farm tours, visit chesapeake-craft.com.