March 22, 2019
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Some of you haven’t heard from me in a while. I keep putting the newsletter on my “To Do” list, yet somehow it just doesn’t get done. It’s at the top of my list today! Thanks for sticking with me.
So guess what? We are celebrating our 10th anniversary of the opening of Willows Bend Farm! Yes, 10 years have gone by, hard to believe. As I look back over where we started and what we have accomplished and the friends we have made along the way, I can’t help but smile. There is still much to do to make Willows Bend Farm the destination that I envision, but we will get there.
In 2009 I started growing plants in the little feed shed using my mother’s old grow lights she used back in the 1970’s when she had her plant shop business and greenhouses. Those galvanized shelves still stand in my greenhouse, though the lights no longer work. They will probably be pressed into service later this year to grow micro greens. But in 2009, that is where I started all my seeds. When they were big enough to transplant, they were moved to straw bale cold frames that topped with old storm window frames that Sandy covered with plastic. On super cold nights we filled gallon jugs with water and tucked them in among the plants to stabilize the temperature and covered the top with old blankets. It was crude, but it worked! When the plants were ready, we set up a tent and a few straw bale benches, went to town and got my business license and sold our first heirloom tomato plants.
A year later we were searching for a greenhouse. We found one for sale in North Carolina; one hundred feet of abandoned galvanized hoops, benches and cinder blocks. With the help of our friends, Mike and Robbie, we dismantled that greenhouse bolt by bolt, stacked it on pallets and had it trucked here. It took us two days to take it apart, but several months to put back together! We put up 80 feet and saved the other 4 hoops for what later became our high tunnel.
I think it was that year that we got in close to a thousand cuttings and had all hands, including my daughter Lizz and her future husband, Austin, planting sometimes minascule tips into trays. Most of them lived! We continued to expand our heirloom tomato selection and focused on growing flowers for pollinators and hummingbirds as well as open pollinated vegetable plants, encouraging people to save seeds.
Fast forward a couple of years and my back was starting to give me problems. It is hard work running a greenhouse and working the gardens! I decided to branch out and also give us some income year round, so we fixed up and painted a room in our house to sell herbs.
A year after the herb shop opened, I began selling essential oils and blending them purposefully. My first really helpful oil blend is still our best seller. Joint Relief was made for someone who was in favor of postponing the knee replacement that his doctor had advised. The oil worked remarkably well. The man bought several bottles. By this time my degenerative disc disease in my back was severe. I was walking with a cane and regularly taking muscle relaxers and pain killers. I started using the Joint Relief too and my pain diminished to the point where I could ditch the cane and the drugs! I was hooked on making essential oil blends and herbal teas that could help people heal.
It soon began to get pretty crowded in that little room. It could only hold about three people! Some of you remember the herbs stacked two high and three deep on shelves to the ceiling. My apprentice, Jessica and I were bumping elbows making teas and oils. I approached the idea of renting a store front, but Sandy said he would build me a shop. I was elated!
So began the long process of getting the permits and the septic system, and the ground work that all had to be done before putting up the building. The Robert Hoyle Contracting company, right here in Dinwiddie, did a great job leveling the ground and pouring the slab and footings. We decided on a steel arch building to maximize space. It took several people raise those arches. Some of the people who helped us volunteered for the day. John, Joshua and Sandy worked the inside and Austin did some plumbing and our 30 x 30 building was completed in March of 2018. The building houses a 20 foot wall of herbs, a table for classes, my research library, the essential oils and other aromatherapy products and a certified kitchen.
The kitchen opened in July of this year and we sell breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as prepare special orders. Most food orders are to go, but we do have a few people that come in to eat on a regular basis and we deliver to the courthouse area so folks at the administration building often order lunch. We serve fresh, quality food, locally sourced whenever possible.
I have a new apprentice now, Amber. She helps me in the kitchen and making teas and aromatherapy blends. Sandy delivers food, is the all-around handyman, you will find him in the farmer’s market booths, and he has become knowledgeable enough of herbs and oils to handle many customer concerns. Sandy is also the expert to consult for our CBD oil products. Mike helps with cleanup and is planning on growing micro greens and tending the backyard gardens and animals. Even with their great help, I could use a bunch more people to keep Willows Bend Farm growing. Over the years we have had some awesome help from volunteers and interns. Billy built many of the raised beds and helped construct the high tunnel. Jessica was my apprentice like a daughter to me. Sara helped get the kitchen going. We appreciate so much the support of our customer friends who purchase from us, spread the word, and lend a hand.
To continue to keep Willows Bend Farm going and growing, we are always looking for people to barter their time for any of our products or services. We need kitchen help, tea makers, oil blenders, customer service, marketing and computer work, administrative assistant, greenhouse workers, groundskeepers…pretty much everything! Please consider exchanging your time for knowledge, experience, plants, produce, herbs, essential oils, aromatherapy products, classes, or delicious home cooked meals.
Mark your calendars for our Celebrate Spring Day on April 13th, 2019. Come for the fun!
With sincere appreciation,
Alisa and Sandy Strunk
Limited time, buy any gift card and get 10% off. Great for Valentine's Day gifting!
Willows Bend Farm 2018 Spring Celebration! It is to be held Saturday, March 31st from 10Am til 5PM.
Ready or not, here we come! Hard to believe this is our 10th year Celebrating Spring at Willows Bend Farm! Added to the usual fun is our Grand Opening of the New Emporium and Kitchen! (Yes, we are excited!)
A ribbon cutting event, at 10AM, sponsored by the Dinwiddie Chamber of Commerce will kick off a fun filled day of activities for the child at heart.
Our bigger, better Emporium is spacious and well organized for self-service. Bring your own containers or use one of ours to restock your culinary and medicinal herbs, seasoning blends, teas and organic coffee beans. Choose from nearly 200 different essential oils, and dozens of aromatherapy products. Sign up for classes or to work in the store in exchange for products.
Great specials await on seasonal plants as well as the opportunity to reserve your heirloom vegetables, perennials and herbs for later planting.
See how we start seedlings and transplants in the greenhouse. Sign up to be a volunteer in this therapeutic environment and take home free plants.
On farm tours throughout the day, you will see banty chickens including ones that look like they are wearing fancy pants and slippers; Huey, Dewey and Louie, a trio of ducks; Big Red the Bourbon Red turkey; Storm the peacock; American Guinea Hog, Stubby; and Oreo, a Julienne-potbelly cross pig; a Flemish Giant bunny named Thumper, and of course a few barn cats.
Door prizes given throughout the day.
Enjoy free refreshments made in our brand new kitchen! Sign up for classes or to be a guest cook in our What’s Cooking Today program.
We cherish and thank our returning friends for their continued support and we look forward to meeting new friends! Come help us celebrate this very important day!
We are growing! These specials are available for a limited time, to help raise money to finish the new retail space and certified kitchen. Click here to read more about our new project.
Option 1: Essential Oil of the Month: $60 per year, $35 for 6 months
Each month receive a 5 mL bottle of essential oil and a card describing the use and safety.
Option 2: Herb of the Month: $30 per year, $18 for 6 months
Each month receive a monograph and one ounce of the selected herb.
Option 3: Herbal Tea of the Month: $30 per year, $18 for 6 months
Get a different herbal tea each month.
Option 4: Tea of the Month: $48 per year, $25 for 6 months
One ounce of Green or black tea per month to include naturally flavored and fruited teas as well.
Option 5: Coffee Subscription:
Get 1 lb. of premium coffee each month: 3 months for $40, 6 months for $78, 1 year for $150
Option 6: Perpetual Remembrance Gift:
Donate $100 (or more) in memory or honor of someone you love (including yourself) and a rose or other perennial shrub or tree will be planted, tended with care and a have an identifying tag with the name of your loved one.
Option 7: Create your own option! Got a fund raising idea? Let us know!
Thank you all for your continued support of Willows Bend Farm. We appreciate each person who visits our little slice of heaven.
It is a great day at Willows Bend Farm!
The first of the arches are up and progress is being made, thanks to our fantastic crew. We're looking forward to a day of hard work - and we're very thankful for the many hands that are helping to raise this building so that we may bring you all the rewards that this new retail space, commercial kitchen, bigger & better Emporium, and classroom space will bring to our community. Stop by and join the excitement. Volunteers are encouraged & welcomed of all ages and skill sets. Or, if you're just curious about what's happening, please stop by!
The excitement is growing here at Willows Bend Farm!
We're sharing the progress so far with hopes that you will feel you are a part of every aspect of this new building. We're also hoping that the excitement will be contagious - and invite you to come join the fun by lending your hands, moral support, skilled knowledge, or just to check out what we're building for you -
We're having an old fashioned "barn raising" event this weekend (the 16th) to raise the steel arches. We'd love to have you there, as there will be much to do. Food and drinks will be provided, along with enthusiasm and appreciation for your time. There will be many more opportunities to become involved - so if you can't make it this time, no worries! Spread the word, bring a friend!
Please contact us if you'd like to help out.
SO, here's an album of photos to show you what's happening!
We are growing at Willows Bend Farm! Since the last time we posted in the "Whats New" section of our website, www.willowsbendfarm.com there has been some exciting happenings! Listening to the needs and wants of our community, we are in the process of constructing a brand new building that will become our bigger, better Emporium, Certified Kitchen and Education Center.
Focusing on low waste and minimizing cost of packaging, the Emporium's bulk organic herbs, spices, teas and coffees will be mostly self-serve. You are encouraged to bring your own clean containers but we will have free zip top baggies available. Customers will also have the option to purchase our heavier mylar zip top pouches, glass or metal containers, or order something special. There will always be someone there to help you with your selections or answer any questions.
Our collection of nearly 100 different therapeutic grade essential oils and blends will have their own alphabetized section in the Aromatherapy section of the Emporium. We will also have room for incense, crystals and minerals and other more esoteric items.
Perhaps the most exciting change is the addition of a certified kitchen! This will enable us to provide the community with ready to go, whole foods, made with love from local ingredients whenever possible.
The plan is to have three soups daily that can be purchased either hot, refrigerated, or frozen. A staple will be Alisa's Chicken Soup, chocked full of herbal goodness. There is nothing more comforting or nourishing than home made chicken soup, but when you are feeling like you need some, you rarely feel like making it from scratch. Willows Bend Farm is here to help! Some sort of chili will also me ready as well as a vegetarian selection each day. With Winter coming, how nice will it be to stop by and pick up some really good soup?
Also from our kitchen there will be ready to buy dips made fresh from our herb dip mixes and selections of other place-to-order foods prepared by a variety of folks from our community who have expressed an interest to being a part of our desire to bring more convenient goodness to you.
Among those who wish to take part in the deliciousness are the Dinwiddie High School Culinary Arts students, retired chefs, and other talented people who know how to bring nutrition and comfort food to you, These chefs will be featured as our "What's Cookin" guest cooks & you'll be able to have the pleasure of ordering whatever they prepare that day, by noon, for dinner-time pickup.
Our ingredients, meat, produce, dairy and herbs will come from local farmers whenever possible to highlight our belief that farm-to-table is vital to supporting local farms and nourishing the community. I can't wait for Richlands Dairy to open their creamery so we can have their ice cream available for purchase here!
So many people are interested in learning how to cook real food that we will be offering classes may in basic cooking skills, baking, canning, preserving, and more.
The kitchen can also be rented by other producers to make salsas, jams, baked goods or any other value added products. This will enable the producers to expand their market by being able to sell both retail and wholesale.
Our research library will be a comfy place to come, sit and relax and have a cup of coffee or tea while you feed your craving of knowledge - Books on herbalism, essential oils and aromatherapy, gardening, sustainable living, and cook books will all be available for browsing in the Emporium and Alisa's favorite titles will be available for purchase.
The new Emporium and Kitchen will be a community gathering place - a healing atmosphere- where all feel welcome. We encourage people of all abilities to come take a shift in the store in exchange for products or classes. With many volunteers we can extend the hours which we will be open. Right now, we hope to be open from 7 am (that morning coffee awaits) until 9 pm.
We will offer both daytime and evening classes on herbs, essential oils and aromatherapy. Home Arts classes will include sewing, needlework and fiber arts like spinning and felting. And we will still have our fun Tea & Paint sessions. (Painting easels and paints are always available for independent use outside)
We encourage you to give us your thoughts, suggestions and feelings on what you'd like to see happen here at Willows Bend Farm. We are here for you,because of you an with you! We are so pleased to serve our local community in bigger and better ways and we appreciate our ever-growing web-based family of folks who want to live cleaner, live healthier, and live happier.
We have several styles of lovely gift baskets to choose from. Since you can customize them, they make a beautiful and thoughtful gift for everyone on your list this year. Please contact us with questions and pricing as we continue to build our website.
We had a great time at the Dinwiddie County Fair in September, now it is on to more fall festivals!
October 14th, Jessica and I (Alisa) will be vending at The Taste of Brunswick Festival and Stew Cook Off.
Look for the blue double tent. Jessica and I will have plenty of great deals so be sure to stop by on your way to tasting some authentic Brunswick Stew.
Meanwhile, Keith will be vending at The Petersburg Trading Fall Festival on the north end of Boydton Plank road here in Dinwiddie, instead of the River Street Market in Petersburg where he usually can be found on a Saturday. Stop by and say hello!
Sanford will skip the regular market at Magnolia Green and stay at home for customers at the Emporium. In addition, we are having a yard sale Friday and Saturday. There will be clothes, some tools, extension cords, and all sorts of neat stuff. Stop in, find a treasure at a bargain price.
The next special event on the schedule is The Pecan Festival at Richard Bland College. This was such a wonderful event last year on its inaugural, that they are extending the fun for 2 days, both Saturday, October 28th and Sunday, October 29th. Be sure to stop by to see us.
In other news...many of you know we plan to construct a 1,000 square foot building in front of the greenhouse that will be our new retail space, education center and certified kitchen. We are super excited this will become a reality in the near future. I met with the VDACS inspector who approved my design for the commercial kitchen. Once completed, we will be making ready made food for purchase, renting the space to other folks who want to be able to sell their value added products, and we will be offering cooking and baking classes as well. Included in our ready to eat foods will be our sought after dips, healthy chicken soup with immunity boosting herbs, freshly baked bread and we are considering the idea of offering "What's Cooking Today?" which will make available whatever we will be making for supper using the finest local ingredients whenever possible. Folks would place their order in the morning, or perhaps we will have the whole week's menu from which to choose. Meals would be ready for pick up on the way home from work.
The retail space will be handicap accessible, low waste, mostly self serve. The idea is to bring your own containers, tare them out on the scale and select and fill from the over 200 organic and wild crafted herbs we offer. We will feature a few different varieties of Equal Exchange Fair Trade Organic Coffee, always to include our favorite Love Buzz, and expand our tea selection as well. Zip top bags will be free, but there will be other container options for purchase if you don't bring your own or want something special. We will have some prepackaged items as well for a quick on-the-go purchase or for gift giving.
Of course we will have all of our favorites in essential oils and aromatherapy and will have room to expand our selection, add a section to showcase local artisans, add some more esoteric items like minerals and crystals, Himalayan Pink Salt items, and have a larger variety of incense and smudging bundles.
Our retail space will double as our education center with friends having access to my research library as well as having a selection of books for purchase. Have a cup of our premium organic coffee while reading or just relaxing. We will be offering classes in essential oils and aromatherapy, herbs, crafting workshops and classes on the home arts like sewing and other needlework.
With all this going on, our hours will be expanded. Our plan, if we can get enough help, is to be open from
7 am until 9 pm. When will all this goodness be happening? Well, we just submitted the septic system design for our kitchen and handicap accessible restroom. Once we get that permit, construction will begin on the installation of the system, then the cement slab will be poured and we can then get to work raising the steel arch building and framing in the inside. Volunteers are welcome and we will keep you informed as our timetable becomes clear. My very ambitious goal is to be completed by Thanksgiving, but that all depends on other people's schedules (ground work, plumbing, electrical, foundation, framing etc.) Perhaps a more realistic goal is to have the shell raising on or near Thanksgiving. We shall see!
As always we treasure our customer/friends. We absolutely need your support to accomplish this ambitious but much needed project. Spread the word! Come and visit!
Keep up with us on our Willows Bend Farm page on Facebook, and "friend" me on my personal page Alisa Strunk.