Blue Skies Over Blue Morning Farm
Three friends from college put a fresh face on farming.
David Siripoonsup, Billy Madert, and Victoria Slater met at Shepherd University in the early 2000s. None grew up in the Mountain State, but all came to call West Virginia home as they worked to establish a sustainable small-scale farm just outside of Shepherdstown in 2007.
While farming in West Virginia and across the U.S. has been on the decline for years, statistics did not deter this trio. In spring 2007, Billy married his college sweetheart, Victoria, and they settled down in the farmhouse of the farm now known as Blue Morning. The property used to belong to Victoria’s father, Steven Slater. When he passed away, the new couple and Victoria’s mother purchased the property. Together with David, who had previous experience with Community Supported Agriculture programs (or CSAs) in Maryland and California, Blue Morning Farm began.
These young farmers grow food in a sustainable way without polluting the earth or using harmful synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. A typical day on the farm starts no later than 7 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m., as the small crew weeds vegetable beds, plants crops, or works to harvest, wash, pack, and deliver the goods. “Growing the food and interacting with our customers is the fun part,” Billy says.
By 2009, the farm had produced enough to support its own CSA program and the first shareholder signed up. Approximately 1.75 acres are in vegetable production now, and the farm has 45 shareholders and two programs—a 30-week program for $625 and a 20-week program for $515. Members help to financially support the farm and, in return, receive a weekly share of the harvest June through October. The group delivers to many sites each week, including Dish in Charles Town, a private residence in Harpers Ferry, and Billy’s parents’ house in Silver Spring, Maryland. “Our customers are people who are looking for fresh vegetables at a good price,” Billy says.
Dish, a modern bistro in Charles Town, is in its fourth year of participating in the CSA program with Blue Morning Farm. Owner Doug Vaira says his patrons can always get a fresh drop of produce when they stop in for a meal. Thanks to the farm’s deliveries, weekly offerings might include tomatoes, pumpkins, kale, broccoli rabe, and other farm-fresh ingredients. “Using local produce and meats is always fresher and more flavorful, plus you’ve got that face-to-face connection with the people who have grown the veggies and raised the animals. You don’t have that dynamic with a faceless national distributor,” Doug says. “Why ship your spinach in from California when someone is growing a better, fresher product just two miles down the road?”