My last hurrah with my son before my daughter was born last August was to visit Polyface Farms in Swoope, Virginia. The little guy had watched — and loved! — the farm’s documentary video with Joel Salatin talking about his sustainable farming practices. We were members of the Polyface Yum buying club, picking up eggs and meat every six weeks at a drop near our home. So Polyface was a household name.
My son, then age four, hadn’t read Omnivore’s Dilemma or seen Food, Inc., both of which profile Polyface’s innovative practices. But I wanted little E to meet the man behind the meat and to see what a farm should really look like.
It can at times cost you a mint to tour Polyface, but about a dozen weekdays a year, they offer “Lunatic Tours” where, for $15 per adult, you get to ride on a wagon with dozens of other devotees and hear Joel Salatin himself (or Daniel) talk for two hours about how they do what they do and why it’s good for the health of the environment and the consumer. Kids are free, and some dates are already sold out, so it’s worth booking your reservation now.
Another option, if a weekday trek doesn’t work for your schedule, is to attend Polyface Farm Field Day on Saturday, July 9. if you’d like more conference and education to go with your tour. That will run you $100 per adult or $60 per youth. Kids under 12 are free for the Field Day as well as for the Lunatic Tours.
Last year, on a Wednesday afternoon, my son and my eight-month-pregnant belly headed southwest toward Staunton, Virginia. I knew I wasn’t up for much more than the drive plus a swim in the hotel pool and dinner before the following day’s adventure. With wet, chlorine-y heads, we explored the caboose outside of Depot Grille before dinner and barely made it back to the hotel room in time for the little guy to fall asleep (and me to sit and read Brain,Child Magazine undisturbed. Now that’s a vacation!)
The next morning was unseasonably cool. We drove over the great little natural foods store Polyface recommended on its website: Cranberry’s Grocery and Eatery. I drank a fresh pressed juice while they made us us Polyface eggs and sausage along with delicious veggies and extra fruit. What a great way to start the day!
The drive to the farm was a little longer than I expected (though the directions were perfect!), but we made it just in time to scramble up on the wagon before it headed out to see the pastured chickens, grassfed cows and pasture-raised pigs. I learned a lot, and my son had a great time, except for not loving the scratchy long grass as we approached the cow’s new grazing area.
After the tour, we returned to Cranberry’s for lunch, and I couldn’t resist picking up some fresh organic produce, handmade notecards, and TerraTint lip balm. It’s a great little shop.
My son wants to make this trek a yearly event. If we go again this summer, I will make my husband take off some time so that we can enjoy the area before one of the Tuesday tours. I’d like to visit Luray Caverns on the way and eat at some other restaurants that carry Polyface products in and around Staunton.
A friend who took her daughter on a Lunatic Tour said they enjoyed visiting the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum and the Frontier Culture Museum, which I must say looks pretty cool to someone into throwback simple living and Waldorf education. It would also be nice to take a hike in the Shenandoah, and another mom on last year’s tour recommended we visit Augusta Springs Wetland Trail.
If you have been to Polyface or to another working farm — or if you go this year — tell us about the highlights of your trip!
Jessica Claire writes about living naturally — most of the time — at Crunchy-Chewy Mama.