Local Growers Celebrate Harvest
Fruit Smaller but Sweeter
It’s always something when your living depends on Mother Nature, said Sarah Henley of Henley’s Orchard: sometimes bugs, sometimes frost, sometimes drought. These last two challenges were definitely at play this year with a mid-May freeze and many weeks with days in the 90s and only minutes of rain. Like other growers, the Henleys have learned to diversify so the reduction of one crop can be offset by revenues from others. Diversity helps in the orchard itself, where planting both early and late varieties of peaches or apples means at least some will survive a bad frost. But then there was the August drought: “The fruit is smaller but it’s sweeter in a drought,” Henley said.
Many of the smaller apples went into cider made right at the orchard, and the family’s offerings now include sweet and hard cider as well as peach wine. “We made it early, and people were ready for it,” Henley said.
Good things happened this year as well as the challenges. Meat processors are back doing business so fans of Henley’s grass-fed beef and farm-raised pork are able to pick up meat along with their fruit and cider. “Henley Fest” will continue every weekend through October, with pumpkins, hay rides, music, and demonstrations of fresh cider pressed on an 1894 contraption, so young people can see how it used to be done.
Grape Growers Grateful
Expecting a lot of rain in early October, grape growers harvested sooner rather than later, said George Hodson of the Virginia Wine Board and Veritas and Flying Fox Wineries. But overall, dry, hot weather is ideal while grapes ripen. “After the 2020 vintage, it’s hard to find anyone who isn’t grateful for what we have in 2021.” He noted that every year is different, with drought and hurricanes making an appearance locally this year. “We are just glad to have fruit on the vine and guests in our tasting rooms.”
Farm Artists Create Sculptures with Hay
Instead of marble, clay or bronze, amateur artists throughout the state use what’s at hand to fashion giant, whimsical structures for the Farm Bureau’s hay bale decorating contest, now in its seventh year.
Virginia farmers have come up with all kinds of fantastic shapes, including tractors, pigs and birds. Hay sculptors take photos of their creations, and winners in each of five categories, which include a student category, receive cash awards. The contest continues through October. For details and an application, call 804-290-1031 or go to bit.ly/3icRJqx.
Crozet Businesses Open, Close, Move
Now closed: Greenwood Gardens, the garden and gift shop at the former fruit stand on Rte. 250. Carolina Obando Beauty has opened at the former Over the Moon Book Shop space at Piedmont Place. The space offers cosmetology training and a boutique as well as hair, skin and makeup services. Little Explorers Discovery School hopes to move to a second location on Tabor Street in downtown Crozet by the end of the year; Piedmont Pediatrics plans a move to its new location on Jarmans Gap Road about the same time; and the medical office building in front of the Lodge at Old Trail should be ready to welcome new tenants in early spring. Crozet Vape and Tobacco has opened at the Crozet Market shopping center, with vaping products, tobacco, cigarettes, CBD preparations and other supplies. Owner Jacob Saleh said the business is waiting for its sign to be approved.
Susan Stanley Sprinkle has moved her wholesale business to Crozet after years of operating Reprotique in Richmond. The building where she crafts and markets her unique fine art reproductions is the former Women’s Club building on Carter Street, a property that she owns. Sprinkle reproduces fine art from private collections, using time-honored production techniques and designs from antiquity to create modern pieces marketed to high-end retailers as well as designers and architects. The workshop is not open to the public, but find examples of her work at www.reprotiqueart.com.
Waynesboro Welcomes New Retail Giants
Over in Waynesboro, there are some new uses for long-vacant buildings. At the former KMart location on West Main Street, Amazon is preparing to open a delivery station. City officials say when the station is fully operational it will offer 100 new jobs. Ollie’s Bargain Outlet is opening at the former Kroger (and before that, Harris Teeter) space on Lew DeWitt Boulevard. Ollie’s is a retail chain selling closeout merchandise and overstock.
Also on Lew Dewitt, The Tractor Supply Company has opened. The store specializes in products for rural life, including livestock and pet supplies, garden and farming equipment and sturdy clothes. The Waynesboro store advertises early morning hours for those at risk. The company’s statement promises a commitment to local animal shelters, 4-H clubs and other farming education programs.
Local Products Star in North Garden Store
Bakers, farmers, woodworkers, potters, artists and creators of every kind have a friend in Polly Davis Doig, who has opened Polly’s Folly in the former Sprouse’s store in North Garden. It was a bit of a challenge, Doig said, with renovation taking longer than expected, and then delays imposed by the pandemic. The store opened in December 2020, and has already become a bit of a community gathering place. In the end, she was able to accomplish what she wanted: to serve as a showcase for the creative geniuses of her community.
“It all kind of fell into place,” she said. Some artists, like woodworker Alex Pettigrew, just stopped by when they saw what she was doing. A local cook whom she calls “the soup whisperer” came in to find a few hours of quiet in Polly’s kitchen during lockdown when her whole family was at home. Doig sought out others whose work she admired. There are herbal cosmetics, jewelry, homegrown teas, Albemarle County cheeses, vinegars and soaps, a selection of handmade PVC flutes, and a large selection of regional beer, wine and cider, including from Loving Cup, just down the road. Should you overindulge in the fermented products of local grapes, fruit or grain, you can pick up an herbal hangover remedy from Polly’s shelves.
Her mother pitches in with advanced home cooking skills, turning out fresh cinnamon rolls, or brownies, or cookies. Albemarle Baking Company delivers fresh bread. The grill stays on for most of the day, and there’s always a couple of quiches along with the soups, plus sandwiches, burritos, burgers and salads. Or take home a pan of Mona Lisa Pasta frozen dinners.
To remain true to her intention of supporting local farmers, Doig offers the hillside in back of the store for a farmer’s market every Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m., and it will continue through the season. Presently there is plenty of produce and baked goods.
Doig is a journalist, an executive editor for the online news site Newser. When she got to the point where she could work from anywhere, she chose Virginia. She’d gone to college at Washington and Lee, and she now lives a few miles from her store. Her two occupations are not so different, she said: “I hear great stories here, lots of them.”
Polly’s Folly is at 2946 Monacan Trail, and is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.