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Volunteer Farm staying in Woodstock, leaving Culpeper

By Sally Voth

The Volunteer Farm in Woodstock will be a leaner, and hopefully greener, operation in 2013.

The board of directors of its parent operation, the World Foundation for Children, met over the weekend and opted to keep the Woodstock farm in operation, while shutting down its offshoot operation in Culpeper, according to chairman Bob Blair.

In late November, Blair warned the farms he started were in danger of shutting down if an emergency appeal didn't raise about $50,000 before the start of 2013.

Blair, 77, started the Volunteer Farm on his land near Woodstock in 2004. The previous summer, he had woken up one morning with the idea of volunteers planting and growing food for the hungry.

Last year, the farms -- a second of which was started in Culpeper four years ago -- generated 83 tons of food for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.

Within days of Blair's appeal, he got what he refers to as his "Christmas miracle." Nearly $40,000 -- including $25,000 from an anonymous donor -- was donated in less than a week.

He said the farm started the new year with about $65,000 carried over.

Still, there isn't enough local support -- volunteer-wise or financially -- for the Culpeper farm to continue, Blair said.

"It's disappointing, but each farm has to pretty much run on its own," he said. "It's the best of all worlds in the sense one, the Culpeper farm was taking money away from the Woodstock Farm. We can produce more on the Woodstock farm. That's where the bulk of our production has been. And, we think we can produce even more. We have that potential to grow more here."

Blair said the farm is looking for a new manager. The former manager had to be let go last fall due to financial reasons.

The same anonymous donor who gave the farm $25,000 has offered to match donations from new donors and will match the additional amount from existing donors who double their highest previous donation, up to $25,000 total, according to Blair.

Blair is still amazed by donors' generosity.

"We had a lot of donations from people that had never donated to us before, and some of them from out of state," he said. "Also, what surprised us was so many of them came in through Paypal.

"There's too many people out there that need food not to keep it going. [Donors] wanted us to keep serving the hungry folks."

Blair also announced on Monday he was no longer the foundation's CEO.

"I'm slowing down," he said of his decision to step down. "It's been tough. The last eight years have taken something out of me."

The farm's director of education and mentoring, the Rev. Richard Reed of Holy Family Orthodox Church in Woodstock, was elected CEO, according to the news release.

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or svoth@nvdaily.com


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