Go Organic! Buy Organic!

I’m pretty sure my chicken’s free range eggs and my tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, peas and beans would be considered organic. The great success of the weeds in my garden, and the healthy population of Japanese beetles in my apples trees and roses are proof that I don’t spray.

homegrown organic fruits and veggies

That wouldn’t be enough for the USDA certification though. There are mountains of do’s and don’ts spelled out in the Guidance on Organic Agriculture that take a pretty dedicated farmer to adhere to for certification. The organic guidelines were established in 1990 with the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and get tweaked a few times a year as different substances and practices are approved or disapproved. Organic farming is more a labor of love than a practical approach to making a profit from agriculture. It encourages recycling, humane treatment of animals, and natural growth of plants and animals free from antibiotics and hormonal and genetic modification. The basic tenets for Organic Farming are all good:

Organic farms and processors:

  • Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
  • Support animal health and welfare
  • Provide access to the outdoors so that animals can exercise their natural behaviors
  • Only use approved materials
  • Do not use genetically modified ingredients
  • Receive annual onsite inspections
  • Separate organic food from non-organic food

When you balk at the higher prices for organic food at the grocery store, go ahead and bite the bullet. You’re not paying extra because it tastes better (though it does), you are paying extra because it’s much harder to grow and takes a farmer willing to wade through paperwork, keep a daily log of farming activities, and be satisfied with a lower yield of a better product.

If you are thinking of producing an organic product, thank you. You’ll need to show that your land has gone at least three years without any non-permissible additions and will have to have soil tests done before your first certification. It’s become a way of life for over 30,000 farmers in the US and continues to grow as consumers demand a more natural, kind, and organic approach to producing our food.

Welcome to Fox Horn Stables

fox horn farm dinner bell and spacious views

Perched on a high knoll off of Dick Woods Road in Western Albemarle County, this picturesque horse farm on 21 acres enjoys far reaching views over the stunning Rockfish Valley. A stylish one bedroom cottage with an open floor plan and wrap around porch may be all you need for your downsizing plans but there is a building right for your dream home and a building site to justify a fine home. Horse facilities include a classic bank barn with seven stalls and a shed row barn with four stalls, tack room and wash rack.

foghorn farm horse farm in western albemarle county

albemarle county horse farm with riding ring

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barn at albemarle co horse farm

cottage interior on albemarle co equestrian farm

views of the rockfish valley and beyond from fox horn stables

Price: $685,000
MLS 544396 (click here for listing)
Click here to view Property Brochure (PDF)

Chickens

Dogs will shower you with love, affection and loyalty. Cats will allow you to appreciate their felinity. Horses can empower and enthrall you with a bond beyond magic. Chickens will make you laugh, laugh, laugh!

raising chicks at firefly farmEarly last Spring at the behest of my dearly beloved we took advantage of “free” peepers at Southern States here in Charlottesville. In one hand a box, half the size of a shoebox with three white and three brown chicks, in the other hand, and in those of my sweetheart were a heat lamp, waterer, chick starter feed, a roll of chicken wire and a notebook full of scribbles from the chicken seminar we had just sat through on folding chairs next to the chicken supply aisle.

chicks in their horse trough home

The chicks lived inside of course, first in a cardboard box and then in a horse trough turned chick village with abalone shell perches, climate control and a chicken wire roof to keep curious cats and dogs safe. Their chirping filled the house as they changed from fluff balls to fledges, insisting I get to work on their outdoor abode to be chosen from over one million designs found under the Google search, “chicken coops”. After banging together two failures their palace arose with a standing seam metal roof, private roosting boxes, convenient perches, ramps, hanging feed and water and most importantly, galvanized hardware cloth extending six inches underground practically daring chicken predators to take a shot.

finishing chicken coop construction

chicken coop ready for its new inhabitants

We started with a chicken run which worked for a couple of days until the first chick said “watch this” and flew out. Round ups proved pointless and the run was abandoned and free range adopted. Fortunately, chickens put themselves to bed right around dark so all we have to do is latch the door and they are safe for the night.

free range chickens leaving the coopchickens roaming free at firefly farmchicken roaming freeChickens start laying at about six months. We found the first egg out in the lawn and took pictures of it from all angles, posted it on Facebook and then fried it up as a huevo ranchero. We now get 5 or 6 eggs a day. “We” is a bit of a misnomer since Gabriela travels for work and I am usually home alone. That’s a lot of eggs so I carefully plan for future favors as I dole out precious dozens of Firefly Farm free range eggs

free range chicken exploring

But here is the best part. These six “free” chicks have added enormous personality to our little country home. Yes, they all have names. They follow you around looking for treats, (dried meal worms drive them crazy), they walk between the dogs legs, pick up after the horses and peck at the sliding glass door to come inside. (No way Jose). When they run, you can’t help but laugh. Their sounds are as expressive and communicative as a zoo at feeding time and they’re seriously good looking birds, each with a personality and each giving us an egg a day.

chicken eggs in the nesting box

I couldn’t recommend this easy entre’ into animal husbandry more highly. Urban chickens are allowed in most areas and more and more often we are seeing chicken coops included in the real estate listings even in the city. This is a great way to get your kids involved in animals and the outdoors, instilling responsibility for those who might take it seriously. Spring is just around the corner so think about wandering into Southern States or Tractor supply in April. Just prick your ears for the peeping and prepare to add a new dimension to your life.free range chicken egg

Country Style

growing up with horses near charlottesville, va

It doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Obviously, you can drop millions on a Keswick estate and repaint the white fence every year if you like, but would you have guessed that there are currently 62 current offerings with 10 or more acres for under $400,000 in our MLS? 20 listings for less than $250,000?

beautiful country horse property near charlottesville virginia

If you’ve been dreaming about living out in the country where you can stretch out a little, let your dog run without following him with a poop bag, and watch your kids tumble down a hill from your kitchen window, you don’t necessarily need to cash in your retirement fund.

affordable country farm house near charlottesville va

Just be prepared to balance the land value vs. the home value at a level that suits your needs. A $400,000 property on 15 acres with a little barn and a pond won’t resemble your home in Forest Lakes or Carrsbrook but it could still be charming and you won’t need to impress your neighbors any longer because they can’t see you. It won’t be a five minute hop to Target anymore but you might really enjoy getting to know and be known in a little town like Scottsville or Gordonsville.

country living near charlottesville virginia

Whether you want complete privacy way back in the woods or some open land for horses, cows, or chickens, you couldn’t ask for a better place to look around at the possibilities. We have everything from steep mountain woodlands to easy rolling farm land as we move down the mountain slopes towards the tidewater.

childhood in the country affordable property near charlottesville virginia

Country living is not for everybody, most folks thrive in a close community as evidenced by much of our new construction where the lots are measured in square feet. I’ve made a career of finding country homes for those who come to the Charlottesville area with that dream. I know I’ve found a good prospect then they spend the first half hour exploring the land before looking at the house. If it’s on your bucket list, let’s take a look at what’s out there. You might be surprised.

winter in the country charlottesville virginiavirginia horse farm with wood fence

Land, Land, Land!


32.2 acres with a stunning view of Old Rag in Madison County, with a 19th century farmhouse. $590,000. MLS 537055

Land for sale: 50 acres with 13 division rights and 1920s farmhouse near Charlottesville, Virginia

50 acres with 13 division rights, just 20 minutes from CHO, with a 1920’s farmhouse, steams, and springs. $349,000. MLS 535512

Land for sale: 155 acres next to Stone Mountain Winery in Green County, Virginia

155 acres right next door to Stone Mountain Winery in Greene County. Magnificent property at 2000′ elevation. $425,000. MLS 515293.


 

Contact John to learn more about these properties >

 

Our Turn

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Six years ago my mom passed away. My dad had been doing well since then on his 22 acre farm in Madison County, gradually turning over the mowing to a landscape company, leasing the front field to a neighbor for his cows, keeping the pool open and the place going for our family oyster roasts and pool parties where all five of the Ince families would gather with kids and grand kids, celebrating our good fortune and especially our father.

A simple stumble started the clock ticking. Broken ribs put Dad on oxygen. Team Ince went into motion, moving him downstairs, hovering to the point of pestering and scouting out retirement homes. Dad recovered fully but read the writing on the wall and began looking at his next step in earnest. The ball started rolling. 88 years of life needed to be reduced into a two bedroom apartment. Furniture, artwork and priceless trinkets had to be dispersed among five families, the house needed to be cleared and the farm needed to be sold.

We met each weekend at the farm, my sisters and I, beginning at the top, opening trunks with trepidation then sitting cross legged, facing each other, going through photos, laughing and crying equally as the fabric of our lives went into precious piles and trash bags. It has been a rich time for us, learning more about our parents and their history than we ever knew, refreshing childhood memories from the myriad of homes we lived in as a Navy family and realizing how strong a bond our parents instilled in each of us for the others, making the distribution of our family treasures a demonstration of love rather than division.

IMG_0442Ten weekends have passed and now the family farm, St Clair, stands empty, proud and clean, awaiting its new owner who has already stepped up. We’re “the kids” to Dad but now we have had a chance to take care of things for him and it has been a pleasure. His apartment at The Collonades is exquisite with his favorite things. His moniker, “The Admiral” gives him some well deserved status and pride and the process has been an affirmation that he and Mom brought “the kids” up right.

As our parent’s generation slips away it’s up to us to make the most of it. To celebrate well lived lives and to bring comfort and peace where we can. In the true world, that is our call now that our kids have flown and our elders can use our help. It’s our turn now, so let’s set a good example for our kids, for soon enough, it will be theirs.

Jump into Spring

A class act, Martha Fruehauf on Mistral

A class act, Martha Fruehauf on Mistral

The best buy in Virginia this Spring at more than $140,000 under the current tax assessment? This magnificent 1987 brick tudor on 18.4 acres of mostly open, fenced pastures and outstanding Blue Ridge Mountain views.

Brick tudor home for sale in madison county va

With lots of room, (6000+ finished square feet) for a large family and great open spaces for entertaining, this beautifully built four bedroom, four and one half bath home overlooks gently rolling pasture and a stocked pond. The property has been perfectly maintained and now offers an updated kitchen with new appliances and granite tops.

There is a full apartment on the terrace level, a stylish workshop/studio located near the residence, and an equipment barn with two turn-out stalls near the lower road frontage.

Fenced pastures on Madison County Horse Farm For SaleThis property is in the ideal location in Southern Madison County: less than one mile from US 29 with road frontage on two state roads. And the land is zoned R-1, adding significant investment options for the new owner. Impeccably maintained and priced to sell quickly at just $595,000.

View property listing for 325 Oneals Road, Madison VA
View listing brochure for 325 Oneals Road, Madison VA
MLS 510804

Reflections on CAAR Leadership role

It’s been a great year!

It’s been a great year!

This Thursday I will hand over the gavel of CAAR leadership to Anita Dunbar. I know I’m feeling a little less pressure than Anita is right now but equally confident she will reflect comfortably as I am right now, next year. CAAR President is a great job. It’s a job that garners respect in the community, respect from peers and respect within the state and national scene at NAR and VAR meetings and conventions. It’s a job where one gets to represent an organization that is 1000 strong and already known for a high bar of professionalism, a great body of good works in the community and a full stable of volunteers filling out the board of the directors, the working groups and teams with talent and enthusiasm. It’s a job where a remarkable Association Executive and her staff wait with pricked ears for anything they can improve upon.

And it teaches you a lot about real estate, what’s hot and what’s not from the who’s who in the industry, mastering data reports for the press, knowing that you know much more than you did last year.

Mostly it teaches you a lot about leadership, about listening, about asking for help and getting a grasp on the bigger picture, about working with people, giving credit and thanks when warranted, about standing firm when necessary.

Back in the saddle.

Back in the saddle.

It’s been a year of learning for me, a year that I will always take pride in and a year I am happy to put behind me as I join my esteemed colleagues in the past Presidents Circle. I pass the gavel to Anita Dunbar knowing she is ready, willing and able and CAAR is healthy, wealthy and wise. My secret?? Just show up!

What would you do with 50 acres?

Especially if it had all the right character for a vineyard?

Virginia vineyard property

Some beautiful rolling pasture for horses or cows?

Virginia farmland for sale

Building sites that will knock you socks off?

Charlottesville Virginia 50 acres pasture and forest for sale

Lots of water, springs and streams?

Virginia farm for sale with springs and streams

Beautiful hardwood forest?

50 acres forest and pasture for sale near Charlottesville VA

Even a charming 1920’s farmhouse?

Charlottesville VA 1920s farmhouse for sale

And 13 division rights?

Less than 30 minutes from Charlottesville?

Check it out.
mls 520933

Harvest

charlottesville country vineyard for sale

It’s that time  of year again when we reap what we sow, literally in the case of Virginia farmland. The corn is being threshed and spilled corn is gleaned from the side of the road by opportunistic birds and mammals knowing its time to start layering for winter. It looks like a third cutting of hay is coming off the hayfields but I’m not seeing cheaper hay prices.

Virginia hayfield virginia corn field

Virginia countryside

Soy beans are a bright yellow and the pumpkins are in the market and making appearances on front porches. The white grapes are being harvested from the vineyards with the reds a couple of weeks away yet. It’s fabulous time of year with weather you’d like to put up in a can to remember in February or Mid July.

virginia grape harvest

Madison County Horse Farm Price Reduction

Price Reduction: It Sounds Too Good to be True

What a buy! This beautifully crafted four bedroom, 4.5 bath brick home on 18.6 acres with Blue Ridge views seems almost too good to be true. Hillwood features a first floor master suite, three large bedrooms upstairs and a full apartment in the basement. There is a walnut paneled study with gun lockers and a wood burning fireplace, a dining room with fireplace, living room with fireplace and a wide open kitchen with new granite tops.

The 18.6 acres is mostly open with wide views to the southwest capturing brilliant sunsets over the Blue Ridge Mountains. The property is all fenced with three board horse fencing and includes a separate shop, equipment barn and a three stall stable. There is a stocked pond and a couple of acres of nice hardwoods for wildlife and firewood.

Pond at 325 Oneals Road, Madison VA

Located in Southern Madison County just off Route 29 for an easy 30 minute drive to Charlottesville and less than two hours to Washington DC. The motivated seller has just reduced the price $50,000 to $645,000, more than $100,000 under the county assessment.

View property listing for 325 Oneals Road, Madison VA
View listing brochure for 325 Oneals Road, Madison VA
MLS 510804

Happiness

The man who penned “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” into our Declaration of Independence must be smiling right now. Those unalienable rights, despite the inevitable disappointments, have flourished and we here in Charlottesville, Virginia are reaping the fruits of Thomas Jefferson’s hopes, dreams and brilliant plan like few places in this world.

downtown mall charlottesville va

From his beloved Monticello, which overlooks his University and the “Happiest city in America,” one can see the verdant farms still in place, one can feel the rich diversity below, living and loving together a little better each day. One can bask in music, art, fine food and Virginia wine while we celebrate America’s creativity, philosophy and intellect as our little town unfolds it’s riches and shares the passionate minds that call this place home.

virginia cornfield

We may not be the center of the universe but we are a bright spot on the map and we’re getting brighter every day. If we are to be known for anything 238 years after Thomas Jefferson proposed these truths to be self evident, “Happiness” pretty much covers all the bases. Pass it on.