Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ropes Course Update 6/22/2017 *FINAL UPDATE BEFORE HEARING*

Whitehall still needs your support!

Dear Whitehall Farm friends, supporters, and customers,
We are now down to the last week until our Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals hearing about being allowed to operate a ropes course on the farm by-right as part of our agritourism business. Currently we have 460 petition signees. Nadine, I, and our farm team can’t thank you enough for your support.
We received the Fairfax County Zoning Administrator’ official response to our appeal yesterday; 98 pages! Apparently, the Commonwealth will come to an end if Zoning can’t stop the scourge known as Whitehall Farm. How much money are they spending in their attempt to keep us from doing what VA Code 15.2-22.88.6 (AKA the Boneta Bill) says we are allowed to do?
The Zoning Administrator included numerous interesting things in her attempted refutation of our appeal claims:
  • Since we harvested timber 6 years ago, the Zoning Administrator claims Whitehall’s forest is no longer a silviculture crop. While you can’t expect the Zoning Administrator to know everything, you should expect her to know something about what she is ruling on. If you have visited Whitehall (the Zoning Administrator hasn’t), you know our woods are intact because we practice renewable, sustainable forestry. Our harvests are select and occur every 15 to 20 years, so of course our forest is still a silviculture crop and would be even if we had clear cut it and replanted.
  • That Popes Head Road not having a shoulder creates a “health, safety, and general welfare” issue that allows her to require a Special Permit. When Nadine and I wanted to open a Paintball Facility, the Zoning Department recommended approval even though paintball’s entrance was to be at 12711 Popes Head. That location had the bare minimum sight distances required by VDOT. Our market location’s (proposed entrance for a ropes course) sight distances are twice as long. Much safer.
  • The Zoning Administrator cites a farm in Prince Edward County having to get a Special Permit in order to open a ropes course as precedent for her ruling. Only one problem; that farm applied for that Special Permit two full years before the passage of VA Code 15.2-22.88.6. Perhaps putting that farm through the ordeal and cost of a Special Permit was a factor in the VA General Assembly enacting this law with almost 80% bi-partisan support.
I could go on, but you guys have lives and we have a farm to run. I spoke with a very nice lady who is the Clerk to the Board of Zoning Appeals yesterday and if you wish to speak at our appeal hearing, all you have to do is email the Board clerks at bzaclerkmail@fairfaxcounty.gov to be put on the speakers list. The hearing is scheduled for 9AM, June 28th in the Board Auditorium, Lobby Level, Government Center Building, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, Virginia. Public support is paramount! We need more supportive speakers!
Cheers,
The Whitehall Farm Family





Thursday, June 8, 2017

Ropes Course Update 6/8/17

Whitehall needs your support!
Zoning Update 6/8/17

Petition link HERE


Dear Whitehall Farm friends, supporters, and customers,

We are now within three weeks until our Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals hearing about being allowed to operate a ropes course on the farm by-right as part of our agritourism business. We can’t emphasize enough how important the revenue from the ropes course is to our ability to continue what we have started here. When VA Code 15.2-22.88.6 (AKA the Boneta Bill) passed in 2014 with almost 80% bi-partisan support, it was an acknowledgement that small family farms needed help to stay in business.

Fairfax County Zoning is claiming that this use isn’t a by-right issue by asserting that a ropes course isn’t a natural activity or attraction and that it will have, as of now, an unnamed adverse effect on the health, safety, and general welfare of the public. But in a Washington Business Journal article about the county opening their own ropes courses, the heads of the Fairfax Park Authority completely refute Fairfax County Zoning’s assertions:

“We are truly making this course a ‘travel lightly’ on the land to preserve and protect these resources and to serve as a springboard (so to speak) to nature in the tree tops,” Barbara Nugent, the Authority’s park services division director, said in an email.
High ropes courses, according to the Park Authority, offer a low-impact, first-hand look at the forest ecosystem, while also providing exercise, team building and personal confidence. They are an opportunity for everyone, from elementary school children to adults, “to access the forest by climbing up into the trees.”

“Ropes courses have been used worldwide to allow people to gain access to forest canopies where they can see firsthand the complexity of forest biomes and gain an appreciation of how complex and rich these biologically diverse ecosystems can be,” per the RFP, which closes Jan. 22.

This article also says that the county is planning “multiple” courses. The hypocrisy of the county’s position is staggering.

We urgently need all who support Whitehall to sign our online petition and attend our appeal hearing on Wednesday, June 28th at 9AM in the auditorium of 12000 Government Center Parkway. A full auditorium will send a strong message.

Thank you,
The Whitehall Farm Family

Press links:





Friday, May 26, 2017

Yoga and Tai chi starting June 3

The classes will be:
Tai Chi from 9 am -10 am. 
Gentle Yoga - All levels yoga from 10 am- 11 am. 
Some may want to stay for both as they compliment each other very well. ($2 dollar discount if you sign up for both)

$15/class

Class descriptions:

Gentle Yoga - All levels:
The aim of this class is to wake up the body with gentle stretching, breath practice and yoga postures, intended for beginners with no previous experience, or those looking for a gentle basic ongoing practice. 


Tai Chi/Qigong
This class will be a combination of healing Qigong and Tai Chi Easy and is appropriate for beginners or those wishing to continue the benefits of an ongoing practice.

Tai chi easy was created by Roger Jahnke of the IIQTC to make Tai Chi more accessible for all ages and abilities. Tai Chi is one of the most complex forms of Qigong (an ancient Chinese system for health and wellness of mind and body). Tai Chi Easy takes five essential movements from the traditional Yang style 108 movement long form, and distills it into simplified practice that makes Tai Chi easy, beneficial and fun right away.

The form was created by carefully reviewing many of the most popular and beneficial forms and distilling it down to five. It can be done standing or sitting, and the most important thing is not the form or the movement, but the state of being (state of awareness) that you do in the movement. 

Bio:
Cynthia enjoys combining ancient and modern healing systems for health of body, mind and spirit, including Yoga, Energy medicine, Tai Chi and Qigong. She began practicing yoga in 1989 and began teaching in 2002. She holds a 500 hour teaching certificate from Sun and Moon Yoga Studio and a 200 hour Certification for Tai Chi and Qigong form the IIQTC. (Institute of Integral Qigong and Tai Chi)


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ropes Course Update 5/25/17

Hello Whitehall customers and supporters,
Many of you already know that we are attempting to bring a ropes course to Whitehall Farm in order to provide the revenue we need to continue operating our farming,  educational, and  agritourism business. The county has ruled that we must apply for and secure a Special Permit in order to do this. That can cost as much as $100K, money that we don’t have. We maintain that the agritourism law we operate under allows a ropes course by right so we are appealing the county’s decision. Our appeal hearing is to be held on Wednesday morning June 28, 2017 before the Board of Zoning Appeals in the Board Auditorium, Lobby Level, Government Center Building, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, Virginia 22035. I know it is a lot to ask, but if your schedule permits and you are so inclined, please come and support us. Public support is critical! We need to fill the place. And if you haven’t signed our petition, please do.


We will answer any questions you may have about this at an open house we are holding at 3PM on June 10th at our market.


If you wish to speak in support of Whitehall at our appeal hearing, please go to
Date is June 28th at 9AM
Application # is A 2017-SP-008


Thank you,
Jeff Waters
Nadine Vazquez
The staff of Whitehall Farm



Thursday, May 11, 2017

Whitehall Farm’s Spring Festival is postponed

Whitehall Farm’s Spring Festival is postponed

Due to the almost 1 inch of rain we have received already today and the additional 1 to 2 inches forecast through Saturday afternoon we will postpone our Spring Festival until next weekend. Even though Sunday is forecast to be dry, the farm is and will be a muddy mess and that will present safety issues. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes and hope you will visit us next weekend. Let’s hope for a beautiful weekend May 20 th and 21st!
Our market will be open its normal hours today through Sunday.

Thank you,

Whitehall Farm


Friday, April 21, 2017

Help Us Save Whitehall Farm


Please help us save Whitehall Farm





My wife and I have gladly mortgaged our personal home twice in an attempt to grow our working educational farm business to a point where it will be self-sufficient and self-sustainable after we are gone. We decided to do this only after the state of Virginia passed 15.2-2288.6 in 2014. The letter, spirit, and intent of this law were designed to allow owners of land engaged in agriculture to monetize their land by also engaging in agritourism without having to get permission from the local zoning department. We urge anyone who might support our cause to read this, elegant in its simplicity, law.

We had hoped to get our business to a neutral cash flow by year three with our produce sales, meat sales, school trips, festivals, and other agritourism events. It became clear last year that we would be off by several years on achieving cash flow neutrality and had to have additional revenue sources. Our (unpaid) business advisor came up with the idea to have a ropes course on the farm. It is the perfect answer to our problem in that it would have several revenue streams. It has the potential to literally save the farm.

On March 7th, the Fairfax County Zoning Administrator ruled that Whitehall Farm could not operate a ropes course, also known as a challenge course, by-right as part of our agritourism business because the proposed use isn’t a natural activity and because of its effect on the health, safety and welfare of the general public.

We maintain, as does our prospective lessee’s attorneys, that this is a by-right zoning issue. For those of you not familiar with zoning terms, by-right means that we have the right to do something with our property without having to get permission from the Zoning Department.
We believe this use fits the clear legal definition of agritourism because:
It is a natural activity.
What is more natural than a kid climbing a tree? Obviously, in our litigious society you can’t have people free climbing trees. A ropes course is the only safe way for people to experience the freedom of being up in the trees of our woods. In the state of Virginia, silvaculture (the cultivation and harvesting of forest trees; forestry.), is considered an agricultural crop, exactly the same as corn and a maze in a corn crop is exactly the same as a ropes course in a forest. And…
It has no substantial impact on the health, safety, and welfare of the general public.
Fairfax County literally just opened a ropes course in a county park. It is hard to see how the county can claim ours will have a negative effect on the citizenry having just opened one of their own. It is interesting that the county course’s lessee is a competitor of our prospective lessee.

Our options are to appeal this decision to the Board of Zoning Appeals or apply for a Special Permit. Requiring a Special Permit means that we would be asking permission to do something with our land that 15.2-2288.6 says we have the right to do. Total costs of a Special Permit can run into 6 figures, money we don’t have. We are appealing the decision to the BZA. We need the Board of Zoning Appeals to vote in favor of Whitehall Farm. If you support our position and quest to save this blue collar family farm, we need your help in the following ways:

·        By signing our e-petition to the Board of Zoning Appeals showing your support for our position. And getting everybody you know to support us.
·        By writing letters to the BZA.  Respectful, thoughtful, and compelling letters.
           Addressed to: The Clerk of the Board of Zoning Appeals
                           Re: Whitehall Farm’s appeal of March 7 Zoning Determination
·        By supporting all our social media sites.
·        By attending the appeal hearing set for the morning of June 28, 2017. We need to show there is wide community support for the farm.
·        Experts and supporters to testify at the hearing. Arborists, naturalists, therapists, educators, team building professionals, land use lawyers, etc.
·        Monetarily. Even if we win this appeal, we have lost the income from this use this year. We are not a 501c3 so donations aren’t tax deductible. In order for you to get some value from any money you might give us, we are starting a Friends of Whitehall discount program with benefits. The details of this program can be found on our Facebook page, Whitehall Farms, LLC.

We won’t make the claim that the farm will have to be sold to a developer if we don’t get this ruling overturned. But it is a certainty that the 200+ acres of Whitehall Farm will not remain a working educational farm if we can’t get additional income.
Thank you for your help.

BZA Hearing is on June 28th. Mark your calendar and come with us to show support!

Imagine



Imagine

Imagine there was a family that owned a 200 plus acre farm in overpopulated Fairfax County, Virginia — a family that wasn’t interesting in cashing in by selling to developers.

Imagine that this family didn’t want 42 McMansions putting 11 million plus gallons of septic effluent into the ground every year, while pumping out the same amount of fresh water.

Imagine that this family wanted to preserve the woods of Whitehall Farm by creating a farming and agritourism business — woods that completely mitigate the carbon footprint of 114 single family homes, including their associated transportation.

Imagine that even with expanding pastures for this family’s farming and agritourism business, there would still be well over 100 acres of untouched forest on the land, and that the farming and agritourism business would result in far fewer car trips than a subdivision would.

Imagine that this family wanted to sustainably and organically grow produce, raise their livestock ethically, educate your children on where their food comes from, provide a place for older kids to intern, preserve a place to enjoy the natural beauty of a farm less than 25 miles from the nation’s capital, and to operate their business as allowed by state law.

Imagine that this family wanted to explore the possibility of a 5 megawatt solar installation that would be elevated enough to allow the grazing of livestock on the same land — a new concept.

Imagine that this family wanted to start a veteran farmer training program on their farm.

Imagine that this family wanted to someday build a farm school for the children of local enlisted military personnel.

Imagine that this family wanted to put this land into a permanent conservation easement, establish a board of trustees, and preserve this farm into perpetuity.

Now imagine that none of this will happen.



BZA Hearing is on June 28th. Mark your calendar and come with us to show support!


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Candle Making Saturday 29th

Come to Whitehall Farm on Saturday, April 29th at 1:30 to learn the art of candle making! We will be making eco-friendly soy candles. Each student will learn how to make luxuriously scented candles to accent their home décor. All supplies are included and each student will take a candle home. $20 each. Sign up HERE


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Seeking Volunteer Educator for Programs

Farm Educator Position at Whitehall Farms in Clifton, Virginia

Whitehall Farm in Clifton, Virginia is seeking a part-time volunteer Farm Educator. Ideal candidates will have a teaching background, or environmental educational experience and a passion for teaching and working with children. The Farm Educator assists with school-aged field trips, facilitates the parent-child program for young learners, and in the future could develop the outreach program and be a facilitator for a summer farm camp.
Located in Fairfax County 10 minutes from George Mason University, the 200+ acres of Whitehall Farms, LLC offers picturesque woodlands with local wildlife, forested streams, and rolling pasture. Whitehall Farms produces a variety of high-quality farm products including fruits, vegetables, grass-fed meat, eggs, honey, and firewood.  An integral part of our farm are the field trips and parent-child educational programs offered in the spring, summer, and fall.
Field Trips are standards-based, theme-based field trips for school-aged children (pre-K to 12 grade) from local schools, scouting troops, etc. Students participate in hands-on, experiential learning in an authentic farm setting.
Parent-Child Programs are Friday mornings at 10.00 am. Our innovative parent-child program combines a hands-on farm activity with parents and their young children, and listening to a story highlighting the class subject or farm area. Parents/guardians and young children (ages preschool to 8 years) are welcome.

Topics for both Field Trips and Parent-Child Programs include:
  • Wonder of Plants (plant parts, fundamental resources of plants, planting & harvesting)
  • Soil Stories (soil components, ecosystem, composting)
  • Pollinators (diversity of pollinators, bees, role in ecosystem, adaptations)
  • Habitats (plant & animal habitats, diversity)
  • Investigating Agriculture (who are farmers, farming in VA, history, organic & sustainable growing practices and process of farm to market to table)​
  • Animals on the Farm (chickens, pigs, cows; feeding & care)
Farm Educator - Skills and Experience
  • Passionate about educating children
  • Supportive of outdoor, hands-on farm education
  • Experience coordinating programs
  • Able to lead children in farm-based activities
  • Ability to collaborate and communicate clearly
  • Flexibility as our farm grows and changes
  • Reliability and a sense of humor



Compensation
The Farm Educator is currently a volunteer position. Compensation can be negotiated depending on the situation.
Time
Friday mornings for approximately 3 hours, plus weekday field trips depending on availability.
Potential to develop our farm education and outreach programming based on your interests.

Application
Interested to apply to be the Farm Educator for Whitehall Farms? Have Questions?
Please email Anna Isserow with your resume and a short paragraph about your interests and why you could be a good fit for the Farm Educator position to anna@whitehall.farm

Applications will be considered on a rolling basis until position filled.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Bee Keeping Classes- April Update!


Come join James and Steven in the apiary on either  April 9, 11, 20th in the afternoon for the first of the WHF and HiveHive bee keeping series. This month's beekeeper calendar has us:

Sun 4.9
We will be checking hives for food stores. If the colonies look hungry, and we expect they are, we will continue to feed 1:1 syrup. Observe conditions of brood build up. Is our feeding effort spurring on the queen to lay?  Perhaps there are more split candidates identified in this visit. Finally, a mite check on some nurse bees. If mites are present, we will be treating in the immediate future.

Tues 4.11
Installing packages to back fill winter dead outs.  This is an exciting experience to the novice beekeeper, but it needn't be. If you have never seen or done this before, come out to check it out. We will take three pounds of bees, and a mated queen and install them into their own colony hive.  The setup is designed for them to release the queen over time. This  insures enough exposure to her pheromones, they will accept her as their queen. 

Thurs 4.20
Observing the installs.  Were they successful? Is she laying? Are they hungry? We bet they are.  We will most likely feed them.  
And what about those splits we made 3/27 (#9 & #2)?  Its been 24 days... lets take a look!

One had a queen with it, and the other was a walk away?  Under best circumstances, the one with the queen will be three weeks ahead of the walk away, but both should be laying now. 


Open to novice, first timers, and experienced bee keepers. Children are also invited with an adult 18+ only. Please sign up here: www.SignUpGenius.com/go/4090D4CA9A72FA0FD0-beekeeping  All classes will be $20 each, with couple, child and family discounts. If you are interested in coming to all of the classes from March through September you can purchase a year pass at the first class for a discount.


*If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a bee sting please do not attend these classes*
About our bee keepers:

Steven Youssef and James Corbett are certified Master Gardeners and commercial beekeepers.  They co-own Mad Man Mercantile which owns and manages apiaries on farms in Northern Virginia (Hive Hive) as well as produces high quality, organic soils and soil amendments (Sequential Soils).

Steven was born in Virginia and with Egyptian ancestry, Steven is a 5th generation farmer. His family's farm in Egypt produces eggs and milk.  Mr. Youssef also manages the school garden at Vienna Elementary School in Vienna, VA.  Steven is married to Cassandra, and they have two children, Clara and Casper.

James was born and raised in New Hampshire, then attended James Madison University where he and Steven met. Mr. Corbett  has lived in Virginia the last 15 years. James is married to Dawn Marie, and they have two children, Olivia and Isabel.

Our mailing address is:
Whitehall Farms, LLC
12523 Popes Head Rd.
CliftonVA 20124

Saturday, March 4, 2017

March Market Tasting Event

March Tasting Event

Details:

When: Saturday, March 11 at 12 PM - 4 PM
Where: Whitehall Farm Market 12523 Popes Head Rd, Clifton, Virginia 20124

Join Whitehall for a FREE tasting of farm veggies and meat. The day will include a free yoga class, essential oils demonstration, and some more wellness themed demos. Veteran Compost will be here to answer any spring compost and potting soil questions.
Yoga at 12:301:30 and 2:30- focusing on gentle stretches that can be done in the office or at your desk.

DoTerra consultant Sarah will be here to talk to you about how to begin using essential oils in your life.

Healthy Food – Healthy Habits – Healthy You
Neck Back & Beyond Healing Arts 
will be here to explore and experience the various ways our center can help you find your optimized health. Sample energy healing through various therapies, experience the Amethyst BioMat and PEMF tools for health and learn nutritional ideas and movements that can help bring vitality and calm to your mind, body and spirit. Check out our website: www.neckbackandbeyond.com

Veteran Compost will be here with compost and potting soil for sale. Come with your spring planting questions and the guys will answer any questions you might have.

PLEASE send this link to anyone who might be interested in this event.