Sustainable Practices in the Shenandoah Valley
June 7, 2022
To be good environmental stewards, we need to meet our community’s needs without negatively impacting the needs of those in the future. Our healthy community needs clean air, clean water, and renewable resources. We adopt sustainability practices to protect our environment and keep its resources from being irreversibly depleted. Here’s a roundup of Shenandoah Valley gardens, farms, vineyards, and other businesses dedicated to sustainable practices.
Gardens and Farms
University of Virginia’s 700-acre Blandy Experimental Farm (Boyce) is a research facility and home to Virginia’s state arboretum. Visit to learn about native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees, including native species rarely damaged by deer. The Nancy Larrick Crosby native plant trail winds through woodland, meadow, and wetland habitats. Explore the themed and native plant gardens that provide habitats for birds, insects, and animals, and more with guided and self-guided tours and activities for kids.
Long Branch Historic House and Farm (Boyce) is an event space and museum that hosts numerous programs each year to promote education and environmental preservation. Located on 400 acres at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the 1811 house is surrounded by the scenic Sheila McQueen Gardens as well as a horse-retirement facility.
You’ll love exploring the u-pick flower garden at The Farm at Clover Hill (Front Royal). This historic and family-friendly farm offers a seasonal array of floral delights as well as educational activities designed to engage visitors with nature. Stay all weekend in the onsite AirBnB farmhouse. The farm’s “advanced farming methods…protect the environment while providing the community with beautiful flowers and our guests with great memories of their time here on the farm.”
Have the experience of a lifetime when you check into your modern-farmhouse accommodations at Madeline Farms in Luray. Your farm-stay vacation is “an agrarian escape for adults.” You’ll learn about life on the farm as you feed and care for farm animals, pick seasonal vegetables and fruit, and turn those ingredients into the freshest farm-to-table fare you’ve ever tasted. Finish each day with a sunset hayride before relaxing around a bonfire.
Sign up for a personalized tour of Luray’s Birdsong Pleasure Garden and take home lots of ideas for your gardens at home. Birdsong highlights native plants, and visitors will learn how to use organic gardening methods, capture rainwater, and welcome native birds and bees in their gardens. Stroll the paths winding among the perennials, veggies, orchards, and water features. Swings and conversational areas are great for relaxing and seeking inspiration.
Visitors to White Oak Lavender Farm (Harrisonburg) can take self-guided audio tours to learn about growing and distilling this great-smelling herb. Buy some plants for your garden at home or harvest sprigs when it’s in season. You’ll also want to let the kids play in the interactive discovery area, which includes animals to pet. After touring the Instagram-worthy gardens, shop the Lavender Shop and savor a glass of wine from onsite Purple WOLF Vineyard.
James Madison University’s Edith J. Carrier Arboretum “preserves native species, provides opportunities for research, and promotes knowledge of the botanical and natural world.” The peaceful 125-acre sanctuary celebrates native Virginia wildflower, tree, and shrub species in a peaceful, wooded environment that’s open to the public. JMU is a member of Bee Campus USA, which endeavors to educate the public about the importance of pollinators and teach people how to provide habitats for them. Additional sustainability practices at JMU include using a least-toxic pesticide plan and promoting pollination campuswide.
Polyface Farm (Swoope) is a national leader in sustainable farming and non-industrial food production. Their best practices include composting, planting trees, and using portable fencing and shelter systems to move animal pastures daily. You can buy pasture-raised, hormone/antibiotic-free meat and eggs at the farm store and take a self-guided tour of the facilities. Polyface also offers scheduled lectures and private tours.
If you’re hoping to bring low-maintenance native species to your own garden, Pebble Hall Wildflowers (Weyers Cave) is a wonderful place for inspiration. Plus, you can pick anything you see to take home with you! Follow the ½-mile loop through the fields of wildflowers and herbs, have a picnic, and admire the long views of the distant mountains. There’s even a small nature museum.
Adults and kids alike can learn to be “environmentally responsible stewards of the Earth” at Boxerwood Gardens (Lexington). Garden spaces are filled with both native and international plants, and five different ecosystems are represented. The garden also showcases unique outdoor play areas. Offset your carbon emissions by donating to COREworks, a program that “vets and funds local projects that restore soil, protect water, and reduce carbon emissions” in Rockbridge County.
You might not immediately think of flowers when you think of Shenandoah National Park, but the park is home to more than 850 species of flowering plants that can be seen in meadows and along trails. See how many you can identify on your next visit.
Vineyards and Breweries
>>Please also add Briede Family Winery to this list. They were founded on sustainable practices and they farm organically (though not certified organic). They are a boutique winery growing unique varietals using sustainable practices such as a pollinator garden, no synthetic pesticides, and all-natural, estate-produced mulch and fertilizer. They offer live acoustic music on weekends throughout the year and provide a small, intimate tasting experience just minutes outside of Old Town Winchester. https://www.briedevineyards.com/
Not only does award-winning Veramar Vineyard (Berryville) make premium Virginia wine, it also offers incredible views of the vineyards and mountains from its tasting room and terrace. The family-owned vineyard hosts numerous programs and events throughout the year and “strive[s} to be grounded enough to forego trends and fads in favor of the lasting principles that will sustain Veramar and Shenandoah Valley winemaking culture many years into the future.”
Muse Vineyards (Woodstock) celebrates the Shenandoah Valley through its wine “where viticultural science and respect for the traditions of classic winemaking converge to produce award-winning wines.” They use the pomice (the wineskins after pressing) to fertilize their home-grown tomatoes, which are served in dishes like caprese salads served in the tasting room. The vineyard also has a 1.8-mile hiking trail that affords incredible views of the Shenandoah Mountains and River. Star in the Valley Estate (Strasburg) also produces remarkable Virginia wine and views for miles. In order to promote sustainable practices, they use sheep in the vineyard for weeding and shoot thinning during the spring. They’ve also installed stream-exclusion fencing to preserve the Chesapeake Bay from the sheep.
Stanley’s Wisteria Vineyard is a family-owned working farm and winery that uses sustainable farming practices and produces all its wine from site-raised grapes. The Music Under the Arbor series runs from June through October and features local artists playing their hits on Saturday afternoons. Visitors can relax on the deck with wine and a picnic while the kids check out the sheep and free-range chickens. Fresh eggs and yarn are available for purchase.
Brix and Columns Vineyards (McGaheysville) boasts delicious wines and panoramic mountain views. This working farm is a wonderful spot for hosting events and is reducing its environmental impact by harnessing the sun to help power its operations.
Reserve a tour of Stable Craft Brewing (Waynesboro), 2021’s Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association’s brewery of the year, and 2022’s Virginia Green Travel Alliance’s Green Brewery of the Year, to learn about its sustainability practices. These include its zero food waste initiative, use of brewing byproducts to water hops and feed local cattle, and tree-planting project.
Businesses and Organizations
Shenandoah University (Winchester) is dedicated to sustainability. Not only do they employ solar panels, but they also use a number of environmentally friendly landscaping practices like planting trees and protecting natural areas, planting native plants and community gardens, minimizing fertilizer and water use by appropriate plant selection, composting, and low-impact snow and ice removal. They’ve also introduced sustainable transportation and dining practices, green cleaning practices, and standards for new facilities. Massanutten Resort is going green by installing solar panels at various facilities throughout the resort. They’ve also recently “improved the energy efficiency in new snowmaking installations.” These upgrades will help reduce the resort’s carbon footprint by offsetting a portion of the resort’s power usage.
Adam’s Apples and Herbs grows apples, peaches, herbs, vegetables, and beautiful flowers that they make into baskets and arrangements. The farm rotates crops and focuses on sustainability. Maintaining soil health is a very important part of the farm operation. They recycle soil from the greenhouses via composting. All of the dead plants, trimmings, and extra biodegradable material go into a compost pile, which is mixed over time to create new soil and then incorporated into high tunnels for production.
Since 2010, Project Grows has been working to provide children in Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County with access to healthy food and garden-based education. The program provides farm-to-school food tastings, field trips, virtual lessons, and more as well as access to healthy food at area farm stands and farmers’ markets.
Find healthy locally grown and native plants at Staunton Plant Co. Native plants are important because they have adapted to their native conditions and generally don’t require as much fertilizer or pesticides as other species. They also shelter and feed local species of birds, mammals, and insects like butterflies. The Natural Garden (Harrisonburg) can help you “make your home a habitat,” by emphasizing native plants in your new or restorative landscape design. Not only can your “living landscape” support the food web, but it will also be beautiful and will thrive in the Shenandoah Valley climate.
Refill Renew (Staunton) tackles sustainability at a material level by eliminating packing waste for cleaning and personal products and specializing in reusable lifestyle goods. Bring refillable containers and pay for the bulk product you add. You’ll find hair and body products, cleaners, detergents, sunscreen, and more.
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