We are a small farm located in King William county Virginia. While neither my wife or I come from a farming background, we did have elements of it in our upbringing. I grew up on what had been my grandfather’s small farmstead. After he passed away, he willed the land to each of his children; each getting five acres. My family raised cows, goats, vegetables, and a small fruit orchard.
I was fortunate enough for us to be right beside my uncle, who had a strong homesteading streak. He used every bit of his five acres to raise animals and vegetables. I’ll always remember playing in his corn fields, eating turnips & tomatoes straight from the garden, and having watermelon seed spitting contests with my cousins. As well as chasing his pigs when they would escape but boy the bacon & hams from his smokehouse were incredible!
After years of military service and living in urban or semi-rural areas, we dreamed of eventually having enough land “in the country” to have a small farm. A farm with enough room to do what we wanted in agriculture on a scale that fit our context. This dream evolved to have more meaning over the years as we lost family members to cancer; especially after I lost both an older brother and my mother within six months of one another. My mother actually succumbed to the exact type of cancer that took my father 20 years previously.
This loss is what led us to want to better understand what we were eating and what effects it had on our bodies. Learning more about the industrial food system in the US, how it was structured, the poor treatment afforded animals being raised in it, the negative environmental consequences, and the almost sharecropper like treatment of producers, brought us to the conclusion that we needed to raise our own food and buy from local farmers what we couldn’t raise ourselves. That is the best way to truly know what is going into the plants and animals that we eat. Buying from other local farmers for the things we don’t raise ourselves also supports the rural economy that has seen tremendous stress over the last several decades.
It is with the desire to remember my parents that we named our farm Lillian Lee Farm. Combining the names of both my mother and father so that not a day goes by that we aren’t reminded of the values and character they instilled in me growing up. As well as the love shown to my wife when she was welcomed into the family.
We have two grown sons, both of whom chose to serve in the military. The oldest is a UH-1Y Venom pilot in the Marine corps and the other is an engineering officer in the Coast Guard. We also have an unofficially adopted daughter who serves as a first responder and emergency response planner.
We look forward to having grand children joining us on the farm at some point in the future.
Currently, we have 25 laying hens that provide us with incredibly tasting fresh eggs. They also allow us to supply a neighboring farm with eggs for one of his enterprises. We also raise meat birds on our pasture and plan to add pork in 2019 that will be raised in the hardwood forests of our farm.
Our farm was originally part of a larger family farm, Dorrell Farms, decades ago that had been heavily row cropped, then unmanaged over the last twenty years. Our farm is comprised of mostly hardwood forest (beech, oak, hickory, poplar, among others) with 17 acres of pasture in the middle.
While we are just starting our farming journey, we are committed to using responsible and sustainable practices that will regenerate the pastures and forests. We are also committed to providing the animals a happy life in an environment that allows them to live as close to their natural instincts as possible.
What does this mean exactly? For the pastures, that means NO “chemical burns” which is nothing more than a euphemism for large scale spraying of broadleaf herbicides. No use of chemical fertilizers, no to minimal tilling, and no planting of non-native species.
For the animals, that means no inhumane, confinement in an overcrowded feedlot, packed into tight crates, or spending their entire lives on concrete floors. We use fencing and chicken “tractors” only to the degree needed to protect against predation. This allows the animals the opportunity to feast on grasses, bugs, nuts, and roots for a significant amount of their nutrition. Supplementing only with non-GMO feed, free of hormones and medication.
The chickens are rotated to fresh pasture twice per day in their “tractors”, safe from ground and aerial predators. They leave behind their droppings to improve the nutrients in the soil, as well as freshly turned earth from their scratching. Building soil and improving the overall health of the land.
When we add pigs to the farm in 2019, they will be kept in paddocks in our pasture and in our hardwood forest, rotated regularly to fresh forage. Replete with mast crops of acorns, hickory nuts, beech nuts, and other forage from the forest floor.
All of these practices result in food that is not only more nutrient dense and better tasting than what you can get in the grocery store, but also food that is more humanely raised, and environmentally friendly. Food that not only makes you feel good, but also food that you can feel good about too.
“Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” - Anonymous Greek Proverb