As most of you know, I grew up in Norfolk. Although my Grandfather was a farmer, he had sold the farm and retired to city life by the time I could walk. As a result, the closest I came to farming during my childhood was watching my father care for his 2-3 tomato plants each year. And you may recall from previous shares, I have had gardens (very generous description) on my deck.

So, you can imagine the shock to my system when I officially became a farmer last week. For several days I joined a group from Charlottesville as we journeyed to The Volunteer Farm of Shenandoah Valley. This 40 acre farm is very different from Polyface Farms that I wrote about last month. This farm produces 165,000 pounds of beans, cabbage, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe etc…Everything that is harvested goes to the Blue Ridge Food banks throughout VA. Since it is a non profit organization and has only 1 full time farm manager, they depend on volunteers to tend the crops.

The organization itself was fascinating to me and I was intrigued by the logistics and details needed to harvest and produce all they do. But what was most memorable, was the work itself. We literally went to a potato field that appeared to be the size of a couple of football fields. In the heat of the sun, we were given our mission. We were to weed the field. First thing that ran through my mind was -“are you kidding me…I thought we are going to be farming”.

The farm manager patiently explained to us city slickers – the weeds will over take the potatoes and more importantly drain the potatoes of the water and nutrients they need. Made perfect sense but still a little overwhelming to see football fields of weeds….

Our group of 20, along with 30 people in another group spread out across the rows. The work was hard and it was hot. But soon, I began to see our groups gain rhythm and make progress. Just like many other things, as we worked together and found our groove, we “cleared more and faster”. At some point, the conversation shifted to acknowledging the hard work that goes into getting each potato to our plate. And when someone accidentally pulled a potato up (the tops are green like weeds), we found ourselves gently planting it back into the earth and talking nicely to it so it would not be wasted! By the end of day one, we could see progress. We did not completely clear the field but you could definitely tell we’d been there! We were proud, tired and ready to rest. 

As for the next day…I admit, we had to get ourselves psyched up to return to the football field of weeds…and there was 60% chance of rain. Oh boy, weeding potatoes in the rain!!! You can imagine our delight when we arrived and got our instructions….they wanted us to plant!!! It rained but it did not matter in the least….we planted and planted and planted – rows and rows of tomatoes and peppers!

At the end of our time there, we all looked back and with pride said…well done. It was certainly worth the time to assist this organization. As an additional benefit, we all became more mindful and appreciative of where our food comes from and what it takes to get it to us. And I am thankful…God made a farmer.

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Lynchburg,VA 24503

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The food is just incredible! I really mean it...I hope you know that I am not just saying this. It's so colorful, fresh, and special every day!"

Faculty Member 

Just a note to say thank you for all of the delicious food you and your staff serve each day. I never knew kale could taste so good!


Outstanding food, outstanding service, outstanding people. I brag about MG to my peers at other schools, and even to my friends and family!


Thank you so much for all the gluten-free options this year! All of your staff have been so helpful. They make a point to come up to me at meals and let me know what options you have for that meal. Salads are great, but sometimes a warm meal is just what you need!

Faculty Member 

Thanks for all of the good work you and your team did to ensure that last night’s welcome gathering for new faculty went off without a hitch. I’m so grateful for Team MG working so hard to make sure things are done the right way.

Head of School 

It’s an understatement to say we were surprised by the excellent quality of the food. We could not recall having a better tuna dish, even at the four-star resturants we frequent in Raleigh. Duke Integrative is a special place.


Many times I find a favorite thing out of the many items served during lunch, and although the featured spinach and fruit salad was visually stunning; the SHOUT OUT winner of the day hands down was the very delicious unassuming Vegetarian Pinto Beans!!! The onions were glistening and the peppers served as a complimentary color to the two different shades of beans...I have one regret and that is I didn’t think to take a picture!


Thank you for making pimento cheese today! It not only is divine, but also hit the spot. I now regret wasting 62.5 years of life on this planet in which I did not eat this heavenly mix. As I explore different recipes in my home kitchen I will try my best to live up to the standard demonstrated by what I had today.

Faculty Member 

Everything was usual! The food was scrumptious...and the weather was gorgeous!

Conference Client 

I would not change a thing! Your staff was not only professional, but warm and caring. They truly set the tone for a memorable night. The food was delicious...our family and friends left with hearts and bellies full!

Catering Client 

I just wanted to thank you so much for all the delicious food at Duke. Your food was such a happy and positive experience and it made the days there so much more enjoyable to eat healthy, but tasty, great food.


Thanks for the delicious soup and the new harvest salad - and thanks for removing half the calories out of the Farm Basket brownie...haha.


THANK YOU for your help today with the open house! Our visiting families raved about the personalized environment. We had a student tell us that Guilford went from his 3rd to 1st choice!


Thank you for all of your hard work on the meals and breaks for the Alumnae Board. The food was outstanding; everyone raved about each meal. Favorites included the grits on Saturday morning and the butternut squash soup on Sunday. YUM!!!


The amazing characteristic is that, on a day by day basis, you give us nutritious, varied, interesting, delicious food...not just something special for company. Please know how much you are appreciated and loved by this community.

Conference Administrator