Rural Madison

A 501(c)(3) non-profit citizen’s organization dedicated to thoughtful planning and policies for sustainable growth, stewardship of our natural, cultural and historical resources and the protection of the rural character of our region.

Category: Local Food (page 1 of 2)

This is seriously the most wonderful time of the year

Rain or shine, if farmers are willing to schlep hundreds of pounds of produce and stand in their stalls all day, I’ll be there. And right now it’s pure joy. The stalls are overflowing with everything that’s good: Stone fruits and tomatoes and every delicate, uplifting herb there is.

Hops & Homestead Festival

1st Annual Hops & Homestead Festival

October 28, 2017, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Bald Top Brewing Company
1830 Thrift Road
Madison, Virginia, VA 22727


Bald Top Brewing Co. and Rural Madison Inc. are proud to present the 2017 Hops & Homestead Festival, featuring local seasonal produce, fine arts, hand made and hand decorated crafts, homesteading and agricultural demonstrations, live entertainment, food, and children’s activities. Get more information on our event page.

Attention Local Producers!

Navigating a Treacherous Landscape:

A Practitioner’s Guide to GAP Food Safety Certification & The Food Safety Modernization Act

Free Webinar
Tuesday August 2, 2016
1:00- 2:00 PM EST


For produce growers, now more than ever food safety certification is a major hurdle to entering and staying competitive in the wholesale marketplace. More and more buyers are requiring 3rd party audits and frequently farmers are left to find their own way through a confusing and complicated food safety landscape. Add to this the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act and you have a perfect recipe for dismay and misinformation. In this webinar we will attempt to demystify the mysterious, find out what questions farmers and buyers should be asking each other, and answer some of the burning questions about FSMA and food safety audits:

  • Why produce food safety and why now?
  • What is GAP certification?
  • What questions should I ask? – As a farmer or as a buyer
  • What is a food safety standard and how do I know which one to choose?
  • When is a 3rd party audit necessary? Who is qualified to provide the audit?
  • What training do I need?
  • Who has to comply with FSMA and what does it take?
  • What will all this cost me in time and money??
  • Who can I trust?


Presenter Bio

Lindsay Gilmour is the owner of Organic Planet LLC and plays two roles: as a personal chef, and as a food systems consultant. Ms. Gilmour has over 35 years’ experience in the food industry as a chef and adult educator, and 13 years in Value Chain Coordination working with farmers to develop efficiencies and systems to meet the demands of the wholesale marketplace. Her current focus is assisting farmers with food safety compliance. Ms. Gilmour has trained in Produce GAPs Harmonized Food Safety Standards, is qualified as a USDA internal auditor for the Harmonized Standards, is a qualified trainer for the FDA Produce Safety rule, a “qualified individual” under the FDA Preventative Controls for Human Food regulation, and has trained as an internal auditor for ISO 9001-22006 quality management systems for agricultural enterprises. Ms. Gilmour has a particular interest and experience in helping farmers work together to achieve food safety certification. From 2013 to 2015 she managed a Group GAP Pilot in Pennsylvania for Fair Food Philadelphia, successfully shepherding more than 120 Amish and Mennonite farmers through USDA Group GAP certification. She is currently managing a project in Mississippi for the Wallace Center at Winrock International, creating a USDA approved ‘single-entity management’ food safety model as a viable solution for under resourced, small farm cooperatives. She continues to work with farmers and orchardists, individually and in groups, helping them overcome their trepidation and develop food safety programs that make sense for them.

After a Century In Decline, Black Farmers Are Back And On the Rise

These Black farmers don’t stop at healthy food. They’re healing trauma, instilling collective values, and changing the way their communities think about the land.

via Yes! Magazine

After a Century In Decline, Black Farmers Are Back And On the Rise

Lindsey Lunsford gathers peppers at TULIP’s community garden. Photo by Wil Sands.

For decades, the U.S. Department of Agriculture discriminated against Black farmers, excluding them from farm loans and assistance. Meanwhile, racist violence in the South targeted land-owning Black farmers, whose very existence threatened the sharecropping system. These factors led to the loss of about 14 million acres of Black-owned rural land—an area nearly the size of West Virginia.

In 1982, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights extrapolated the statistics on land loss and predicted the extinction of the Black farmer by the year 2000.

They were wrong. While the situation is still dire, with Black farmers comprising only about 1 percent of the industry, we have not disappeared. After more than a century of decline, the number of Black farmers is on the rise.

These farmers are not just growing food, either. The ones you’ll meet here rely on survival strategies inherited from their ancestors, such as collectivism and commitment to social change. They infuse popular education, activism, and collective ownership into their work.

Rural Madison 2016 Pop-Up Film Fest

Please join Rural Madison for a pop-up film fest featuring stories about food, farming, and sustainability.



7:00 p.m., Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Madison County Extension Office
2 South Main Street
War Memorial Building, 2nd Floor
Madison, VA 22727

This event is free and open to the public.
Donations to help us cover expenses greatly appreciated!

food, farming, and sustainability


SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Real Food Films Contest is pleased to announce the outstanding finalists in its third short films competition featuring stories about food, farming, and sustainability. From the depths of fishing in Thailand, to the true grit of Alabama, the changing climate of maple syrup and creative ways to quell hunger, the ten finalist films cover a broad range of topics in today’s growing good food movement. A panel of judges, including Padma Lakshmi, Raj Patel, Susan Ungaro, and chef Tom Colicchio, will select the Grand Prize winner, first runner up, and special awards. Online voting, starting today, will determine the “People’s Choice Award” at

The 2016 Finalists were selected from 160 submissions representing filmmakers from 20 countries in this year’s first ever call for entries outside of the U.S. and Canada. Diverse formats include documentary to advocacy to spoken word. Films are all four minutes or under and feature original voices and stunning cinematography that lean toward the get-your-hands-dirty stories at the heart of the food movement over the perfectly styled plates of restaurateurs. Top 10 short films eloquently capture action in the food system from down the block and around the globe.

This year’s finalists include:

Everybody Eats | Boone, North Carolina | USA
Mindful Vineyards | Napa Valley, California | USA
Farmed with Love | Outskirts of Shanghai, China
A Sustainable Catch | Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand
McEwen & Sons True Grits | Wilsonville, Alabama | USA
Naturali Tea | Fujieda, Japan
Saving Sap | Loudon, New Hampshire | USA
The Kelly Street Garden | South Bronx, New York City | USA
Home Flavored | Oakland, California | USA
Beyond the Seal | El Oro Province, Ecuador

Prize winners will be announced on May 2, 2016 and include a $5,000 Grand Prize, a new $5,000 Lens on Hunger Award, as well as $5,000 more in awards for best student film, best cinematography, and more. All winning films have distribution opportunities with Contest media partners, including Devour! The Food Film Fest, Disposable Film Festival, SXSW Eco and Vimeo.

Viewers can join Real Food Media in celebrating the stories featured in these Top 10 films and vote for their People’s Choice favorite now through April 30 online.

Eating is an agricultural act: an interview with Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry

Rural Madison announces partnership in food enterprise center

Rural Madison announces partnership in food enterprise center
Joins with other organizations to make George Washington Carver center a reality

Staff Writer

GWCFEC.orgEarlier this month, Rural Madison announced that it would partner with several other like-minded organizations in the George Washington Carver Food Enterprise Center (GWCFEC).

Billed as the ultimate recycling project, the GWCFEC plans to rehabilitate and restore the facilities at the historic former all-black George Washington Carver Regional High School on Route 15 in Culpeper County. The building has been virtually unused since the early 1960’s when Virginia’s public schools were desegregated.

A consortium of groups is involved including the Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission, Cooperative Extension, Rural Madison and the George Washington Carver Regional High School Alumni Association, all of which are trying to return the property to a productive use that respects the facility’s history.

The plan is for the facility to host a broad range of agricultural activities including a food processing center where small farmers can prepare products for market, produce storage, large plot agricultural research, and culinary training. The group’s mission is to provide infrastructure for year-round production of healthy and affordable food.

Back in 2014, the Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission partnered with the Virginia Food Enterprise Center and Cooperative Extension to complete a study to determine the viability of turning the former George Washington Carver Regional High School facilities into a multi-use agricultural center.

Last May and June, consultants for the project held regional focus group sessions with farmers, growers, producers, gardeners and other food entrepreneurs within the region to determine the need and interest level for the GWCFEC.

The results of this research show both a need and a desire for a food enterprise center within this area. The study found that there was interest in local food products and a need for a facility to process local products.

Janet Bearden, GWCFEC Team Leader, has been a driving force behind the project and has brought her 30 years of management experience to the group. As a volunteer for MESA, she saw a need for affordable, locally grown food. As early as 2009, she began efforts to make locally grown food available year-round.

“My passion has been making wholesome locally grown food available year-round, giving farmers additional markets and providing jobs to those who need them,” Bearden said. ‘The funding we’ve previously helped us carry out the feasibility study, everything else has been done by volunteers. Now we’re developing funding proposals for the project to move on to the next phase.”

Plans include a certified commercial kitchen so that local farmers and growers can process small batches of value-added products—sauces, jams or jellies—for sale to the public, storage facilities for small producers, agricultural research plots, and an educational center. Ren LeVally, vice president of Rural Madison, sees a need for an agricultural support center and is passionate about the project.

“I’m very hopeful about this,” he said. “Our visions (Rural Madison and GWCFEC) are so closely aligned they are almost the same. We have a need to support our community and a project like this helps assure the long-term viability of Madison’s economy. Madison is an agricultural community; our young people see limited opportunities and leave. This can be a great way to help farmers and the community as a whole.”

Jill Grace Jefferson, the volunteer project coordinator, believes that the pieces are coming together for the project and that it is possible parts of the center will be operational within the calendar year.

“We have plans in place, as soon as there is funding, we will be able to start on each aspect of the project,” she said. “As we secure the funding it’s like putting another piece of the puzzle in place. This is a great project on many levels. It allows us to re-use an empty facility providing support and training to rural communities. While we can’t erase the past, we can use this facility in such a way as to honor [its] history while providing support to the community.”

It is hoped that the facility will be by offering certified kitchen rentals and for-profit food service training classes.

LeVally believes that the GWCFEC has the potential to help the region on several levels.

“This facility can help our community in workforce development and in support of agribusiness but it also serves individuals by making healthy and affordable foods more readily available,” he said. “My personal interest is in human health and nutrition. Increasing the availability of healthy, affordable food is good for the whole community. Madison is not immune to America’s health problems. We have obesity, hypertension, and diabetes here. By empowering people to take care of themselves, you give them the tools to succeed.”

For more information on the GWCFEC, visit

Stone Soup Project a success

Stone Soup Project a success

Eleven students complete program

Staff Writer

Rural Madison Vice President Ren LeVally talks to Stone Soup Project Graduate Nathan Good as Good chops a tomato.

Rural Madison Vice President Ren LeVally talks to Stone Soup Project Graduate Nathan Good as Good chops a tomato. Photo by Becca Pizmoht/ Madison County Eagle

The Madison Stone Soup Project concluded its six-week course with a graduation celebration Dec. 14.

Out of 12 original enrollees, 11 students completed the program and graduated. The graduates each received three certificates—the National Restaurant Association ServSafe Food Handler Certificate of Completion, the Cooperative Extension Customer Service Certificate, and the Stone Soup Job Skills Training Certificate. The graduates received their certification and celebrated with friends and family with refreshments prepared by the class.

The Stone Soup Project, a food service training course run by Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Food Enterprise Centers with assistance from Rappahannock Goodwill Industries and Rural Madison is designed to help low-income individuals get skills that can aid entry into the workforce. The program partnered with Rappahannock Goodwill Industries to provide graduates with jobs. Goodwill Industries will pay the graduates salaries for six weeks. At the end of the six-week trial, employers will have the option to hire the graduate.

According to the staff and students, the Madison course was a success. Ren LeVally, vice president of Rural Madison and professionally trained executive chef taught culinary skills to the participants and happy with the program’s outcome.

“This is a good fit for Madison and something near and dear to me. When I heard about Stone Soup, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it,” he said. “We were really pleased with the participation and interest in this program and hope to make it permanent.”

Marty Bywaters-Baldwin, workforce center manager of Rappahannock Goodwill Industries was also pleased with the program and its results.

“There is a real need for this type of training,” he said. “Foodservice provides many entry level jobs and there are many restaurants, hospitals, schools, and institutions that are looking for qualified workers. Partnering with Cooperative Extension and Rural Madison helped reach out to a different group; I’m pleased with this and hope it can continue and grow.”

Claire Lillard of Cooperative Extension echoed their sentiments.

“We had a diverse group of participants, some were looking to get and improve job skills, some looking for the ServSafe certification and some just looking to improve their kitchen skills. I think they all got something out of this,” she said. “One of the students is working with ‘Marty to get an internship, too.”

The group is enthusiastic about the program and is hopeful that it will become a permanent part of the curriculum at the George Washington Carver Agriculture Center in Culpeper. The Madison and Culpeper Stone Soup courses were funded through a grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. LeVally and Lillard said they are exploring other possible sources of funding so that the project can continue.

Meanwhile, the students were equally enthusiastic about the pilot program and plan to use their training in different ways.

“I did this so I can get better job options,” graduate Nathan Good said. “I’m not someone that’s looking for a handout, but this is a leg up, a way for me to do a little better. I’ve done all kinds of jobs; [food service] has more opportunities right now.”

“My dream is to open a small café after I retire,” graduate Betty Madison said. “I learned some things and got my ServSafe certificate. Hopefully, that’s the first step towards that.”

Madison County farm the only beef producer in the state to be certified Animal Welfare Approved

NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

MADISON COUNTY, Va (WVIR) – A farm in Madison County is now the only beef producer in the state to be certified Animal Welfare Approved.

downloadThe independent label requires the strictest ethical and organic standards in the country. To achieve that label, the cows at Wolf Creek Farm are raised without hormones or antibiotics, eat only grass, and live their entire lives in a pasture.

The most common sound to break the silence day to day at Wolf Creek Farm comes from the hundreds of cattle feasting on the pastures cultivated by owner John Whiteside. He says his operation is the best way to use what nature has to offer.

“The best way we can harness the energy of the sun and improve the health of the planet, is through grazing animals on soil,” Whiteside said.

Farms like Wolf Creek are a rarity, making up less than 10 percent of the beef market.

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