Recap of VFC’s Georgiatown Farm Visit

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Farmer Karen Doyle and her pigs at Georgiatown Farm in White Stone, Va.

Farmer Karen Doyle and her pigs at Georgiatown Farm in White Stone, Va.

The Virginia Free Citizen’s very first farm visit for our “Life on the Farm” series was to Karen Doyle’s Georgiatown Farm in White Stone, Va. Doyle is a heritage breed livestock farmer who is passionate about providing a sustainable environment for her animals. She does not use any antibiotics, GMOs or any other kind of chemical additive in her products.

VFC reached out to Doyle last week to get an update from her since our visit in April. Doyle has had her hands full this summer, raising new animals. She said one of her ewes gave birth to a ram and an ewe and her Red Wattle Hog gave birth to 11 baby piglets, which are now three weeks old. She now has about 26 Bourbon Red Turkeys (she had 10 when we visited) and she is also raising several Muscovy ducks.

Doyle also had two interns this summer who were interested in learning more about farming. One intern got to experience the birth of the piglets, she said. The intern has also helped Doyle build a new pig area by taking down the old huts and rebuilding them. Doyle said this new system will allow her to rotate the pigs and keep the areas fresh with greenery.

She is increasing her egg and livestock production.

“I’m trying to build up my livestock again,” Doyle said. “I want to keep a boar and I want to be able to rotate my pigs.”

A mother sheep and her baby at  Georgiatown Farm.

A mother sheep and her baby at Georgiatown Farm.

Doyle runs her small 10-acre farm mostly by herself. She started farming almost five years ago after working in the food business for 35 years and finding the quality of meat to be“appalling.” Doyle’s goal is to improve the quality of meat available in the market. She raises pigs, sheep, turkeys and chickens and she sells her meats and eggs at farmers markets, as well as individual sales from customers who come to her farm.

Doyle is part of the Livestock Conservancy, an organization that’s mission is to help preserve and protect the traditional livestock breeds that are becoming endangered here in America because of factory farming. Doyle does her part by keeping these heritage breeds in the market, which she said helps diversify the food market. Doyle’s heritage breeds include: Red Wattle Hog, Clun Forest Lamb and the Red Bourbon Turkey. Her chickens are free to roam in a pine forest, which is part of a French poultry production program called Label Rouge.

During our April visit, Doyle stressed the importance of the consumer, saying that consumers can make a difference if they demand healthier and better quality foods.

“The consumer can make a difference and they’re the only ones who can make a difference,” Doyle said. “Every time you go into a restaurant, you have to ask them … ‘Do you source anything local?’ … You have to say that and let them know you’re disappointed that they don’t.”

Doyle recommends consumers slowly transition to buying food straight from the farm by just purchasing one food item at a time, since farm-raised food can be expensive. Doyle warns that it’s a commitment that can be tough at times.

“Buy one thing, and ultimately, you will gradually get out of packaged food in your house, which is expensive,” she said. “When you do transition to this kind of food, it’s a lifestyle. I rarely eat in restaurants if they don’t have farm-raised food.”

The local food movement is gaining more attention, Doyle said, and she expects it to continue growing in the future.

“I think this is a trend that is still on the rise. It has plateaued by no means,” Doyle said. “I think in the next ten years, you’re going to see it different because just in the last four and a half years that I’ve been involved, farmers’ marketing has become very competitive and it’s becoming a big business.”

In case you missed it, check out VFC’s in-depth series on Karen Doyle’s Georgiatown Farm:

Farm Freedom Series: Georgiatown Farm Strives for Sustainability
Virginia Livestock Farmer Abstains From GMOs and Antibiotics
Local Farmer Seeks to Preserve America’s Heritage Livestock Breeds
Local Farmer Faces Challenges With Selling Non-USDA Poultry

Shelby Mertens

About Shelby Mertens

Shelby Mertens is a recent graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in Mass Communications - Journalism. She was the arts and culture editor of The Commonwealth Times, VCU's independent student press. Shelby was a blogging and social media intern for Gandzee, an online retail startup in Richmond. She covered the General Assembly session last spring for Capital News Service on behalf of over 70 news publications across the state. She has also published work on WTVR-CBS 6's website, a part of the iPadJournos project at VCU.