Tom wasn’t raised as a farmer, but after he and his wife Jackie purchased their county home in the beautiful Blue Grass Valley, he began considering the possibilities the land had to offer. He began researching what it would take to create an organic fruit farm that could be managed profitably by a single person. By beginning Sweet Rose Farm and implementing these plans, he hoped to create a replicable model for Highland County and show that high quality, organic produce farming is economically viable for farmers in the area.
Today, Tom aims “to take care of the land in the best way that I can and produce the most high quality product possible.” He is Highland’s only certified organic producer and grows a diverse range of fruits, berries, and vegetables. His orchard consists of apples, peaches and Asian pears as well as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Next to the orchard, vegetables flourish in his asparagus field, vegetable field and a high tunnel which houses vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers and summer squash. Nearby, hives of honey bees help pollinate the fruits and produce honey.
Tom is dedicated to good land stewardship at Sweet Rose Farm. Surrounded by 40 acres of deer fencing, the farm itself is laid out so that “everything is planted with the lay of the land.” In addition to the orchard and vegetable garden, the farm’s wetland and hillside areas are part of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, a federal land conservation program that protects farm land prone to degradation. Though this area is minimally managed, it is planted with native trees and plants such as pecans, bush cranberries and pawpaws as part of the program. As a certified organic grower, Tom raises his produce without the use of chemically derived pesticides or herbicides. He practices alternative weeding, fertilizing and harvesting techniques. In his design, he has dispersed his own work load by staggering his harvest, by plant type and variety. This his use of different varieties, Tom helps promote biodiversity, alleviate insect pressure and circumvent weather issues such as last frosts. Tom’s dedication to environmental protection extends through the harvest and he uses reusable harvest bins and is committed to sourcing compostable packaging.
Though Tom’s plants are still maturing, his produce is available at The Highland County Farmers Market, a small local market in Vienna, VA and the Whole Foods in Vienna. In addition to offering design and technical support to farmers in the area, Tom and Jackie support the Highland Farmers Market, Allegheny Meats, The Highland Center’s Taste of Highland Event and donate produce to charity.
Blue Grass, VA