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News

Country Charm of Halifax draws new farmers to the area

SoVaNow.com / October 11, 2012
By Leah Brown,
Agricultural Development director
Special to the News & Record


Doug and Lisa Bowen, of Country Charm Farm, both have a colorful background in farming, and several separate life events led them to Halifax County to start their own small farm. Lisa was born in Richland’s, and moved to Ohio when she was four. Her family bought a farm in Pleasant City, Ohio where Lisa grew up on the farm that primarily raised Herford beef cattle. But as with most farms, there was a menagerie of other animals living on the farm as well. There were chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, pigs, sheep, horses, ponies and rabbits. She had a wonderful childhood on the farm with many wonderful memories and wouldn’t have wanted to live anywhere else.

Although Doug grew up on a three-acre plot in the suburbs, he was no stranger to farm life. Doug was born in Marietta, Ohio and grew up in the small town of Whipple. As a youngster, a lot of his time was spent helping out on his grandfather’s farm, and his teen years were spent working on a Morgan Horse farm. He also raised and showed steers at the county fair with the FFA, of which he was president of his junior year of high school. He actually considered becoming a Vocational Agriculture teacher, but his passion from youth was to be a Marine and the Marine Corps won out in the end.

While they both enjoyed their childhoods on the farm, they never really appreciated it until they had lived many years in the city. “Growing up on farms gave us a love and understanding of animals, as well as a deep connection with the land” they stated. Throughout a brief detour from the “country” they both held onto their dream of someday returning to their farming roots. Lisa’s mother and Doug’s grandfather were the biggest influences in their decision to become farmers. Both had a tremendous understanding of the land and animal behavior. Their combined knowledge and experience could have filled volumes.

Close quarters and heavy traffic drove them to take a weekend trip to Clarksville, to get away from the hustle and bustle of Hampton Roads. That weekend marked the beginning of the end of city life for the Bowens. “We searched the internet for available properties in the surrounding area and found our little country haven in Halifax. We were looking for a quaint little small town with a whole lot of country charm and that is what we found in Halifax.” Incidentally, that is how “Country Charm Farm” got its name. Doug and Lisa purchased their farm in November 2004 while still living in Hampton Roads. They set up a five year exit plan from city life to the farm and spent the next five years driving back and forth on weekends as they renovated their country home. They sold their home in Virginia Beach and moved to Halifax in 2009, never looking back!

Knowing the limitations of having a small farm, the Bowens knew they needed to make the most of the space available. “We hoped to become as sufficient as possible on the acreage we have.” They knew they wanted a dairy animal to provide milk and cheese but weren’t quite sure which animals to choose until after extensive research. Giving consideration to the excellent health-related benefits of goat milk and its many by-products, goats became the logical choice. The next challenge was in deciding which breed of goat should be purchased. Ultimately, they decided on the Nigerian Dwarf goat. “Their small size, colorful markings, and pleasant temperaments made them the perfect choice for us.”

The Bowens purchased 12 registered Nigerian Dwarf goats from excellent breeding stock and began their journey as owners of some of the most entertaining, inquisitive little animals on the face of the earth. They now have 36 goats in their herd and are currently milking ten goats twice a day. “We get some of the most delicious milk we have ever tasted!”

The Bowens also breed and raise Kangal dogs as livestock guardians. The Kangal is a magnificent livestock guardian originated from Turkey. Very few Kangal’s have been imported to the United States and the Bowens feel very fortunate to have two of these dogs guarding their herd. Their three year old Kangal, Kamran, just recently delivered a litter of ten puppies. They know their place is with the herd and they are very protective.

When asked their favorite part of farming, the Bowens replied “Working with the animals and being able to work outdoors! After many years of working behind a desk we appreciate all the small things and open spaces nature has to offer.” They also included “farming is the most difficult job we have ever had, but definitely the most rewarding.” They also exclaimed “we love what we’re doing and wouldn’t trade it for anything. Would we rather stay in our warm beds on cold mornings instead of going outside to do the chores? Of course we would! But when we remember the hours spent in traffic and the beautiful days spent behind a desk, we enthusiastically rise and embrace another wonderful day on the farm. No regrets!”

“I think the most amazing experience I carry with me is the first time we witnessed a young doe (goat) giving birth to quadruplets. Being amazed at how loving and attentive they are. Meticulously cleaning and tending to each kid as she rotates their feedings ensuring each one receives the milk they need to survive. Animal instincts are amazing!” they exclaimed.

The Bowens were also asked what one thing they would share with everyone about farming, and their response was this, “We think in order to be an effective farmer, you need a true passion for what you do. If you don’t love working with the land and caring for livestock it would be extremely difficult to be successful. The work is hard, hours are long, the weather is harsh, and there is no guarantee you will make a return on your investment. It’s not the money… it’s the job you love.”

The Bowens have been working towards their goal of opening a farm store for quite some time now. They have worked closely with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to make this goal a reality. Doug and Lisa got their final approval to open their new country store at the September meeting of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors. “Country Charm Farm Store” will be open to the public starting Friday, Oct. 19, and the Bowens encourage everyone to come take a look at what they have to offer. The farm store will have several local items to offer, and will be open on Fridays and Saturdays. They will have goat soaps and cheeses available in the store, and will host cheese-making classes. There will also be several local vendors with artisan products and locally produced goods.

“I think we will continue to see more and more people leaving the cities in search of a simpler way of life. The desire to return to the past and learn to care for the land and become more self-sustaining is very popular at this time. The movement to grow better and healthier foods, to live at a slower pace and bring up our families in small towns where ‘everyone knows your name’ is strong and growing. As the number of people without experience in the country increases, we will see a continued increase in Agri-businesses, such as farm tours, mentorships, and farm stays. Activities such as learning to milk a cow, canning your own food, planting a garden, or making soap and cheese are becoming lost arts,” the said.

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Comments

I hope they do well, but calling that place a farm is a bit of a stretch. Why dosen't the N&R do a story on the real farmers of Halifax County, that pay most of the taxes, the ones that struggle to get in their tobacco, hay, grain,etc. Whiles these stories look good, how much real economic impact will a store open a couple day a week have. I would hope that you would do a human intrest story on real farmers

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Alpolitical2 that is what Halifax County see's as "real" farmers and it's what they want. I have said for a while that the county is in decline and will have catastrophic financial problems in the very near future. You see all of the names in these newspapers where these people are unable to pay the property taxes and the beurocrats of Halifax solution, raise rates on everyone who still pays. Oh well, the more things change the more they stay the same! Just wait until 2015 because the tobacco buyout payments stop in 2014! You will see some "real" farmers then.


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