CAMPUS FARM AT COVENANT WOODS RETIREMENT COMMUNITY | MECHANICSVILLE, VA
Growing food. Building community.
The campus farm at Covenant Woods is an expansive garden — some 10,000 square feet to date — that forms the heart of our farm-to-table program. Each year, the farm produces thousands of pounds of fresh, organically grown vegetables, berries, figs, and herbs for use in Covenant Woods’ restaurants. In fact, during high season, the farm supplies as much as 30 percent of the produce used by our restaurants.
But food isn’t the only thing grown on this farm. Its operation relies on volunteers who help with everything from sowing seeds and planting seedlings to weeding and harvesting. Along the way, skills are learned and honed, neighbors get to know each other, friendships form, and a true sense of community spirit is built. Even residents receiving health care at Manor East enjoy an occasional outing to the farm to pick fresh figs when they’re in season.
The campus farm also makes these wholesome foods available to residents and staff seasonally in The Market convenience store on our campus and to people in need in the surrounding area through donations of produce to the Mechanicsville Churches Emergency Functions food pantry. Now that’s how you grow community.
— Lee B., resident and campus farm volunteer
See our campus farm featured on PBS’ “Virginia Home Grown”
Covenant Woods’ campus farm is an innovative program that’s unique among senior living communities. So, it’s no surprise that it caught the attention of PBS and the “Virginia Home Grown” producers who came out to learn how our farm operates and how it benefits all residents at Covenant Woods. Click here to watch the episode.
Sustainable farming practices at Covenant Woods
The Covenant Woods campus farm is a strictly organic, no-till operation. All crops are grown from seed, without the use of herbicides or pesticides. Integrated pest management techniques are employed as are practices such as using worms to aerate the soil, and strategic placement of crops on both sides of the fence to deter wildlife from gorging on the day’s labor. These sustainable practices not only produce healthier food for residents to eat but also contribute to healthier soil.
The farm has expanded over the years and, in 2022, the total yield exceeded 4,400 pounds. Each summer, the farm produces more than 1,000 pounds of “Hanover” tomatoes that make their way into a variety of scrumptious dishes in Covenant Woods’ restaurants. Residents enjoy gazpacho, tomato pies, made-from-scratch Bloody Mary mix, and more.
In addition to making significant culinary contributions to Covenant Woods, the campus farm helps beautify our campus by planting blooming flora such as butterfly weed, mountain mint, goldenrod, and asters. Plans for a new greenhouse are in the offing, which will allow the farm to grow mums, pansies, landscape plants, and native trees for the grounds.
Local and organic. Good for you, good for the planet.
Each season, Covenant Woods’ farm manager and executive chef work together to choose which crops will be planted. Choices are based on preferred ingredients as well as varieties that grow best in our area. Selections typically include multiple varieties of tomatoes – this is Hanover County, after all – buttercrunch lettuce, kale, onions, swiss chard, peppers, eggplant, red and gold beets and Chijimisai, a Japanese green similar to spinach. Recently, pumpkins and watermelons also have been added. Once you’ve experienced this way of eating, you’ll agree – there’s nothing better than knowing the food you eat has been grown in a healthful, sustainable way.
Get a little dirt on your hands and make friends along the way.
In addition to the opportunity to tend their own personal garden beds, many residents find friendship, fulfillment, and a good outlet for exercise by volunteering at the campus farm. They choose their own schedule and work as much or as little as they like, helping with seeding trays, planting, weeding, and harvesting. Some residents also contribute in other ways. Our woodworking group has built seedling frames, birdhouses, bird feeders, and specialty garden tools. One crafty resident even crocheted false wasp nests that hang in the shed and greenhouse to act as a deterrent to insect pests. And a good number of residents bring fruit and vegetable scraps from home for composting, bringing our farm-to-table program full circle.
STAY WILD AT HEART
Whether you’re a nature-lover, an angler, a gardener, or an avid walker or hiker, Covenant Woods’ 90-acre campus offers endless ways to enjoy the great outdoors.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Volunteers fill many roles in our non-profit community. From assisting with activities in Manor East, working in our library, or helping on our farm, your skills can make a difference in our community.
SAVOR THE FRESHNESS
With three distinct dining venues, variety is always on the menu. And with our innovative farm-to-table program, the freshest ingredients are a given.