Agriculture Literacy Week: Celebrating the small farmer

To Gail Rose of Deauville Farm in Basye, farming is “more than a job, it’s a life.”

Rose has worked at Deauville since 1996 and is busy preparing for the 2015 harvest and planting seasons.

“I am a farmer because I love farming, but to be able to do it in the Shenandoah Valley, that’s the greatest gift,” Rose said.

At the moment, Rose said she performs 99 percent of the day-to-day operations at Deauville, which includes planting seeds for the harvest, managing the 30-tree orchard and taking care of the chickens for organic egg production.

Her farm is also the subject of a documentary called “Doeville” that is previewing at an Environmental Film Festival at American University in Washington, D.C., this Friday.

The documentary was an independent production directed by former National Geographic filmmaker Kathryn Pasternak.

Although the timing of the release was not by design – Pasternak was originally shooting for an early 2014 release – it is conveniently occurring near the end of Virginia’s fifth Agricultural Literacy Week.

“My story is about the last days of Virginia’s only deer farm, but it is also the story of small farmers and what we deal with on a day-to-day basis,” Rose said.

Although she does not have deer anymore — aside from the occasional whitetail that shows up to eat her vegetables — Rose admitted that she still sees some challenges at Deauville.

“Chicken feed hasn’t gone down, especially organic feed,” Rose said, adding that she pays “top dollar” for this feed — partly because her customers expect it.

At the same time, Rose noted that her operational costs have actually been “a lot less” without the deer.

Rose added that she hopes 2015 will be a “crescent year” that helps her “turn things around” financially to get her head above water.

“My chickens are managing, I sell out of eggs every week, which is great,” Rose said. “Right now, I’m holding my own, which is a good feeling.”

Rose added that she is excited for the premiere of “Doeville” partly because “it tells the people who don’t know how food is grown and where it comes from and what it takes to get it to their table.

“I think it is going to help people get a better feel for farm life. They go to the supermarket, they don’t know what it takes.”

As a small, local pick-your-own farming operation, Rose said she has seen children grow up as customers of the farm.

“[Families] come here because they know where their food comes from,” she said, “But more than that, they go home … and look for local farmers because they want that same quality food.”

For the all of the weather and financial-related stresses of the job, Rose said she tries to keep in mind who she is farming for and around in the area.

“I have a range of customers that come here, some wonderful folks around here who live on very tight pensions,” Rose said. “These people count on me for these eggs.”

On the same token, Rose said she sees customers that who are merely in town or staying at Bryce Resort periodically and might only “stop by for a quick salad.”

“That’s what I kind of have worked my gardens around is ‘pick-your-own, come and try it,'” Rose said.

On top of that, Rose said she has even started to hold “gardening sessions” at the farm in order to teach people “how to garden in their backyards.”

“We do a whole lot of little things,” Rose said. “Pretty much every small farmer can say the same thing.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or