By Sally Voth
The Volunteer Farm's new manager needed the farm as much as it needed him.
Page County native J.C. Fox and his wife had been out of work for two years when he was hired by the Volunteer Farm in March. Both have had health problems.
"I just had gotten better and [was] just taking my time letting God heal me," Fox said. "Now, I'm better.
"Our finances was getting down to nothing, and we have children and everything. We needed means to help provide for the family."
And, the Volunteer Farm needed someone to run its farm operations. The farm, part of the World Foundation for Children, had been in financial distress, coming close to shutting down at the end of 2012.
Instead, donations poured in, and the foundation's board of directors voted to shut down its sister operation in Culpeper.
All of the food grown on the farm -- more than 1650,000 pounds -- is donated to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, which supplies food pantries around much of Virginia.
The previous farm manager was laid off last fall because of the Volunteer Farm's lack of funding.
Fox said he'd spent eight months "vigorously" looking for employment when a job website matched him with the Volunteer Farm. Agriculture has played a major role in his life.
"I was born and raised on a cattle farm," Fox said. "As I was growing up, we also had backyard gardens and stuff like that."
In the past five years, Fox, who had worked for a welding company, had begun doing a lot of backyard gardening with several large gardens at his house.
Forty-seven acres of vegetables are expected to be planted at the Volunteer Farm this year, and trees from the Culpeper farm have been transplanted, Fox said.
"It's going good," he said of operations. "One weekend, we had between 90 and 100 people here. As it gets warmer weather, our volunteers will increase."
Among the crops already planted or scheduled to be planted this year are onions, potatoes, beans, peas, squash, watermelons and cantaloupes.
Students at two schools are starting thousands of pepper and tomato plants which will then be transplanted to the farm, Fox said.
"I just keep praying donations, contributions keep coming in," Fox said.
So does Bob Blair, the man who started the Volunteer Farm on his former Christmas tree farm. He said the farm has reached about 70 percent of the $25,000 needed for a matching grant an anonymous donor is providing.
The donor will match donations from new donors, and the additional amount previous donors are adding to their highest-ever donation, up to $25,000, Blair said.
"So, new donors can double their money, and that helps us," he said.
To donate to the Volunteer Farm, visit www.WorldFoundationforChildren.com, call 459-3478, or send checks to 277 Crider Lane, Woodstock, 22664.
Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org