October 1, 2013

Lockhart Family Farm Visit

Last Friday I ventured out to Woodford, Virginia to spend a good part of the day at Lockhart Family Farm. Lockhart is a small scale farm specializing in raising heritage breed pork and poultry — they use what they call old world sustainable farming practices. You might remember the recap from our first visit to this farm for the community Food Coop farm dinner.

I'd kept in touch with Josiah Lockhart since the farm dinner about my interest in bees. He let me know he was planning on going into the bee houses for probably the last time this season if I wanted to come to watch, learn and lend a hand around the farm.

So, I got to the farm and got into some bees!

Josiah's method for keeping bees centers around letting them do their thing, undisturbed. He believes in doing as little as possible to stress the bees and only maintains the hives when he feels there may be a problem. Because their main intention in keeping the bees involves promoting pollination all around the farm, he's not as worried about intensified production of honeycomb. When it is time to clear out a comb, Josiah and Jocelyn jar honey and use the wax in all sorts of natural balms and beauty products. They recently opened up an Etsy shop for the farm where they sell these natural products and I'm itching to try the beard oil.

Josiah uses top-bar hives, the same as he had used with this method when living in Scotland.

Here's a shot where you can actually see a bee carrying pollen into the hive, if you look at the one that has landed it looks like it is carrying two sacks of orange.

As I've mentioned before, Mary and I have always been interested in the idea of having a hive or two on the rooftop of our garage, but will be the first ones to admit we don't know the first thing about bee keeping. It was an incredible opportunity to get to visit the farm on "bee day" to learn more about bees in general, and the different practices for keeping them.

While I definitely don't feel I'm at the point where I could build and keep our own hive, I do feel like I learned a lot, appreciate bees even more, and am more eager than ever to learn more about what it might actually take to keep them here in the city.

One of the original reasons I was so drawn to Lockhart Family farm is the pigs. It was fascinating to me to see how much they'd grown in the past few weeks since first visiting the farm.

The pigs actually help landscape the farm naturally. Josiah will place them in an area with heavy foliage and deeply rooted branches that he's hoping to clear. Within a matter of weeks, the pigs will eat the vegetation and roots, clearing the land in a natural way without heavy machinery. Once the area is clear, the pigs are rotated to a new area with heavy roots and foliage while Josiah works on the cleared land (you can see where the pigs were previously, behind the pig above). Some of the area that is being cleared now will eventually become grounds for an orchard on the farm.

I was able to go inside the pig field and help with a gate around a new large foliage area where the pigs had just moved in.

All in all, I was able to see what a small portion of the day is like for Josiah and Jocelyn. It's a lot of physical hard work and love that goes into this farm and I feel lucky that I was able to experience it, even on a small scale. Visiting a farm like this to help out and learn, especially on a weekday, is something I wasn't able to take the opportunity to do when I was working a 9-5. Now that I have a more flexible schedule, it's been incredible to see, experience and learn so many new things about sustainable food and where it comes from. I'm so appreciative to Josiah and Jocelyn for welcoming me back to the farm and for being so willing to share their knowledge with me.

We'll be sure to keep you posted if a bee house or houses are in our future.


  1. Very very interesting......really enjoyed this post.....have a question, do they still have to feed the pigs, or do they get all their food by just clearing the land ?Love hearing about the bees also.....love honey, but scared to death of bees :)....keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you, and the bees are quite calm you just do not want to corner or trap them then they get a little irritated. The hogs are fed some feed and also some spent grains from a local brewery.

  2. I did a short piece on beekeeping for one of the local alt weeklies here last year. I used that opportunity to learn more to see if we really wanted bees, as we've been talking about it for some time. They are fascinating! I've also discovered you can apply for Virginia state grants to help you get set up as a beekeeper. We still don't have bees quite yet, but it's more a matter of when, not if for us.

    I'd also love to get a pig, but my husband has put his foot down to that. We only have 1/3 of an acre here in the city, not enough space. Visits to some of our farmer friends will have to suffice. We had one very memorable trip where we happened to see pigs being born, which my daughter announced to a table full of her friends as we served sausage from that farm at her birthday party one year. Needless to say, not much sausage was eaten after that....except for my girl.

    1. Becky, such a great story! We will be sure to detail any moves we make on the be front and as far as property it sounds like you have an estate compared to our little lot!


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