Our quest of experiencing urban agriculture took us to suburban Prince William County, to a town called Nokesville. Well…..kinda. The adventure began as the fellows huddled in (3) separate vehicles…..plugged in Nokesville to their GPS…..and all (3) cars managed to get lost in transit. We even managed to get separated from the other cars (now back to liking GPS). Any wrong turn spelled a likely road construction project or a subdivision maze with no end in sight (in our case – we found both). Are there really any farms nearby? Are we lost again? Not to worry though, for I was riding shotgun with the Beancrusher….and he only has one gear and its wide open. Lets face it….Kings Dominion has nothing on the thrill ride of riding with Ian. After our subdivision excursion we arrived at Yankey Farms, owned and operated by Jay and Sonja Yankey.
We quickly realized several things: 1) We were the 1st vehicle to arrive and would have to wait about 5 minutes for the others to complete their U-turns; 2) The cookies and snacks were in another vehicle, so no food to go along with our coffee; and 3) Yankey Farms is only a few miles from subdivisions and city dwellers. How do they do it? How do they farm so close to this metropolitan setting?
Yankey Farms is a 15 acre direct market produce farm located in an urban setting of Prince William County. Jay constantly follows the market demands and maintains a flexible business model, with the goal of getting his products to his customers. The operation began with small vegetable gardening background, and they quickly gained traction in 1997 – 1998. Marketing outlets over the years have been: farmers markets, CSA, and the current emphasis of “Pick Your Own”. The internet and social media are constantly utilized as beneficial advertising outlets. Their website highlights harvest updates throughout the year.
Our May visit to Yankey Farms showcased their 2 acre strawberry patch in the early harvest stage. As I gazed in amazement at the 20,000 strawberry plants, my first thought was how sore my back would feel after picking strawberries after about 2 hours (and that would only yield a couple gallons). But with the “Pick Your Own” harvest strategy, the end consumer provides the harvest labor while obtaining a hands-on agriculture experience. Brilliant!
It was an interesting path (urban traffic, a few subdivisions, etc.) that led us to Yankey Farms. Our visit offered a great example of how farmers can interface with consumers in an urban setting. Consumers are interested (now….more than ever) about who produces their food, and exactly how this is accomplished. Direct marketing strategies to consumers (i.e. delivery to work, PYO, CSA) are quite different when compared to traditional agriculture. But no matter which route you choose as a farmer / producer, rest assured, there’s a place at the table for you.