Friday, February 26, 2010

Earthsong Teen Meditation Retreat

~ The following was published in The Floyd Press, July 31, 2008

Summer camp is an all-American tradition for many teens. But what kind of camp teaches kindness as part of its curriculum, or instructs campers to disconnect from their high-tech, high paced lives in order to sit still and listen?

At the second annual Earthsong Teen Meditation Retreat teenagers from Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Connecticut, Maine, and all over Virginia agreed to undertake five prerequisite commitments, one of which was to speak truthfully and kindly. They learned sitting and walking meditation skills and were given the opportunity to explore yoga, martial arts, visual and performance arts, primitive life skills, and to participate in a traditional Native American sweat lodge ceremony.

Hosted by Earthsong Farm and Retreat in Patrick County, Virginia, the week long event was held July 6 - 12 at a camp adjacent to Earthsong, thirty minutes from downtown Floyd. Rolling green meadows dotted with cabins, a pavilion, a large room for gathering, wooded pathways, and a nearby creek set the stage for a teen camp experience with retreat as its focus.

The founder of Earthsong, Maury Cooke, is an entrepreneur from Portsmouth, Virginia, who heads up The Center for Community Development, a non-profit organization that promotes affordable housing, arts and culture, and microenterprise. After the death of his son in a car accident, Cooke, a longtime meditater, vowed to find a way to mentor youth. When he met Erin Hill, a teen meditation teacher from California, and was inspired by her to attend a meditation retreat, he knew he had found the way.

For the Virginia retreat, teachers skilled at working with teens were flown in from California and Ohio. They included Hill, Tempel Smith, Marvin Beltzer, and Jason Murphy (CSAC). Smith has lived as a monk in Burma. Belzer, a Professor of Philosophy, helped develop youth retreats at the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts. Other teachers included twenty-nine year old Jessica Morey, who began practicing meditation at the age of fourteen at the Insight Meditation Society, and Joe Klein, LPC, who also helped to organize and managed the retreat. Assistant teachers were drawn from Floyd and surrounding areas and included Alan Forrest, head of Counselor Education at Radford University. Commenting on the retreat Forrest said, "What was amazing is that it was a transformative experience not just for the teens but also for the staff."

In some ways the retreat resembled any other summer camp experience. Friendships were formed. Guitars were played around an open fire. But rather than the traditional marshmallows being roasted, teens munched on wild berry cobbler and other locally grown food. Teachers gave nightly talks. Teens were encouraged to use "wise speech," and periods of silence were observed at designated times throughout the day.

The meditation techniques introduced to the teens were drawn from the Vipassana tradition, an ancient practice of self observation where attention to the breath is used to anchor the mind in the present. Vipassana, a Sanskrit word for "insight," is sometimes referred to as "mindfulness." The Teen Meditation Retreat brochure reads: "Meditation clears the mind, allows a sense of calm, and supports more appreciation and happiness. It is an avenue that empowers by allowing more control of our states of mind and emotions."

"We're giving kids skills to maintain their own mental, physical, and spiritual health," said Klein. "They're learning to practice loving kindness towards themselves as well as towards others," he added.

Even mealtimes at the retreat provided opportunities to practice mindfulness, as teens were encouraged to slow down while eating and guess the ingredients of the chef's savory nightly soups. Clean-up was also encouraged to be done with mindful concentration.

Although developing meditation skills was the primary focus of the retreat, several of the sixteen teens who participated expressed their appreciation for the daily inclusion of small discussion groups, where feelings were expressed, barriers broke down, and the challenges of group dynamics were explored.

"At first I was sort of shy and then I started to warm up," said Devin Deerheat Gamache. Gamache, who grew up in Floyd but now lives in Arkansas, attended last year's retreat and returned this year. He credited a small group game called "If you really knew me, you'd know that ..." for helping him quickly forge friendships. Liota Weinbaum, another retreater, said the small groups were "a unique social situation where relationships got more real and meaningful."

The retreat culminated in a spirited Community Sharing the night before the end of the retreat. After dinner teens and teachers shared poetry, songs, drumming, and dancing in an open mic atmosphere. They also presented theatrical performances, learned in workshops throughout the week.

At an Appreciation Circle the next morning, feelings of gratitude were verbalized. One teen described the retreat as "the single best week of my life." Another remarked that he enjoyed learning drumming and how to use poi lights (a string of LED glow lights that change colors and make a light show when swung at night). Others used the forum to voice gratitude for what they had learned and to thank the adults for making the retreat happen.

As the week wound to a close, goodbyes were exchanged with humor, hugs, and emotion. Many of the teens expressed enthusiasm for coming back to next retreat. "Everyone here was so loving. I just felt loved," said fifteen year old Maya Matlack before heading back to her home in Pennsylvania. ~ Colleen Redman

Post Notes:
Read an article on the retreat that appeared in the Roanoke Times HERE and one from The Virginian Pilot, written by a recent high school graduate who participated in the retreat HERE. The Virginian Pilot also did a July 12th feature on Maury Cooke, which appears as an excerpt HERE. More information on teen retreats is HERE. The above was originally posted on Loose Leaf Notes on August 25, 2008.

Monday, February 15, 2010

FloydFest is a Family Affair

The following appeared in the Floyd Press on July 24, 2008 and also online HERE.

The theme of this year’s Floydfest, “A Family Affair,” came about at the end of last year’s festival when festival co-founder Kris Hodges realized that everyone involved – patrons, volunteers, staff, and vendors – felt like family.

But the feeling of family extends beyond the 400 yearly volunteers, the 40 paid event staff, and others who work together to make the summer music festival a success. The theme, which takes its name from the popular 70’s song by Sly and the Family Stone, is a reflection of Hodges’ overview of the event, held off the Blue Ridge Parkway this July 24 – 27. “It’s a celebration of tolerance for each other, all of us sharing this planet,” he said.

His partner and co-founder, Erika Johnson said her appreciation for the theme was reinforced by a recent Tom Petty concert she attended at a large venue in Raleigh, North Carolina. The event was ruined for her by the impersonal nature of the venue and the rowdy drinking behavior of the packed-in crowd. “For the same amount of money, you could come to Floyd Fest for the weekend,” Hodges noted.

Floyd Fest, about to begin its seventh year, is older than Hodges and Johnson’s daughter Chloe. In keeping with the family theme, this year will be the first that the six year old will be attending all four days of the festival with her ten year old brother, Tristen,” her mother said.

With Chloe on her lap, Johnson pointed out the new playground in the Children’s Universe, built by the Pennsylvanian Amish as an ark. Pointing out the building expansion project at the dance tent site, she explained that each year festival-goers are encouraged with the chance to win free tickets to fill out a survey listing what they liked about the festival and what they would like to see at future events. A bigger dance floor was at the top of the list.

“We’re doubling the dance space,” said Bob Forman, a FloydFest staff member who was onsite to work on the project.

Another new FloydFest feature, added for the enjoyment of children and adults alike, is a trapeze. Run by the Trapeze Academy, the event is an interactive one and will have a central location, overlooking Hill Holler Stage. “It takes you up sixty feet and you can learn how to flip,” said Johnson.

Although the festival continues to offer a range of children’s activities, healing arts, a contained beer and wine garden, a variety of vending tents for food, arts, and crafts; the main focus remains the same. “This festival is for music lovers,” Hodges said.

Headliners this year include the return of FloydFest favorite, Donna the Buffalo, along with Railroad Earth, Tea Leaf Green, The David Grisman Quintet, Golem, Ivan Neville, the Avett Brothers, and Amos Lee; who Hodges says has been likened to Bob Dylan. Bands will be coming from San Francisco and Brooklyn and everywhere in between.

“Virginia bands are well represented,” Hodges said. He listed Roanoke, Blacksburg, Richmond, and Charlottesville as regional areas the bands will be coming from. No Speed Limit, a bluegrass band from Galax, described on the FloyFest webpage ( as “in the fast lane in regards to their musical careers,” will be performing. Floyd musicians on the roster include Mac and Jenny Traynham, and The Aliens. Floyd’s Starroot will return to the Children’s Universe with her band Somersault.

Hodges is particularly excited about the festival’s emerging artist series. Thirty-five musical acts from nearby and around the country will compete for an audience choice vote. The winner will return next year for a main stage performance. The audience favorite will also receive $1,000, recording time at Red Room Studio in Roanoke, and $500 to spend on marketing merchandise to be sold at the FloydFest store, Hodges explained.

With thousands of festival-goers camping and gathering on the sprawling festival site, with seven stages for four days of nonstop music, and a village of vending tents, FloydFest is a big undertaking. “We get a lot of help,” Hodges said. “This year the sponsors really stepped up.”

“The Food Lion is providing water and soda. Citizens is hosting the Cyber Café, and local landscaper John Beegle has donated landscaping,” Johnson said.

This year 80 bands will hit the Floyd Fest stages, as compared to 72 last year. Judging by pre-ticket sales, which are up 30% from last year, Hodges and Johnson are enthusiastic.

“People want an intimate, wholesome experience, and FloydFest offers that, Hodges said. “We’re having fun. We feel blessed every day to be doing this,” Johnson added. ~ Colleen Redman

Photos: 1. FloydFest founders Erika Johnson and Kris Hodges with their daughter Chloe at the festival site. 2. Flowers in the Beer Garden ready for landscaping, which is headed-up by Barb Gillespie of Floyd. 3. Ongoing questions about whether Pink Floyd will be playing at FloydFest prompted the redesign of the Beer Garden Stage, now known as the Pink Floyd stage. 4. Large stringed instrument sculpture at the festival entrance was made by Floyd metal fabricator Asa Pickford. More photos and fun tales to come… Click HERE and scroll down for past Floyd Fest stories and photos.

~ Originally posted on Loose Leaf Notes on July 25, 2008.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

They Call Floyd a Healing Place

~ The following was published in The Floyd Press on July 10, 2008 and on their online site HERE.

When Rose Cherrix and her son Abraham first participated in the Spoken Word Open Mic at Floyd's Café Del Sol, they received a rousing round of applause when Rose told the crowd that Abraham recently had cancer but was now cancer free. A few in the audience remembered their story. It made national news when, at the age of sixteen, Abraham declined a high-dose round of chemotherapy and radiation and his parents were charged with medical neglect for supporting his decision.

In August of 2005, the Cherrix family was living on Chincoteague Island, Virginia, when Abraham discovered a lump in his neck while working at his computer. After it was determined that he had Hodgkin's disease - cancer of the lymphatic system - he received the standard round of adult chemotherapy. Although the treatment made him very ill, it seemed worth it when he learned the cancer was gone. But two months later it returned. Abraham didn't think he could bear a second stronger round of chemotherapy and the radiation that his oncologist recommended. "I was so weak my father had to carry me," he said about the first round of treatment.

His mother explained that chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin's disease offers an 80 - 85% chance of recovery, but if the cancer comes back a second time the percentage rate goes way down. "An oncologist testified on our behalf that Abraham's chance of surviving the second round of chemotherapy and the radiation was only 15-25%," she said.

Considering those odds, the Cherrixes did some extensive online research and opted to try an alternative, all-natural treatment. Abraham made two trips to a clinic in Mexico where he received Hoxsey therapy, an herbal tonic that has been banned as a cancer treatment in the U.S. Using the tonic and an improved diet, his strength returned, and he felt hopeful hearing the success stories of others he met at the clinic, he said. But his treatment was interrupted by a court order.

When Abraham's refusal of prescribed treatment was reported to Social Services, a chain of events began that would thrust the Cherrixes in the media spotlight. Rose and Abraham's father, Jay, faced possible jail time after they were found guilty of medical neglect by the Juvenile Court. Abraham was threatened with foster care placement or juvenile detention if he didn't abide by the prescribed treatment. Now the family had two battles to fight - Abraham's cancer and the courts.

"On the day we were ordered to deliver Abraham to the Children's Hospital in Norfolk, to do whatever they said, we were in Circuit Court with an appeal. The judge approved the appeal. A week later we won the case," Rose remembered.

Meanwhile, Abraham became a patient of Dr. Smith, an oncologist in Mississippi who uses a combination of alternative and standard cancer treatments, including Immunotherapy, a therapy that involves stimulating a patient's immune system to attack malignant tumor cells. The authorities were comfortable knowing Abraham was being treated by a U.S. oncologist who was providing treatments with some proven success. The Cherrixes were comfortable with Dr. Smith's approach. They were also pleased with the results. Under Dr. Smith's care, Abraham has been cancer free for over a year.

Abraham's illness and the court battles that followed took a heavy toll on the Cherrix family. They lost their home, their kayak tour business, and Rose's marriage to Abraham's father fell apart. But as bad as things were, many people came forward to offer support and kindness. "We got to see the good in the world and the genuine caring of so many," Rose stressed.

One of the people who came to the Cherrix's aid was a woman that Rose refers to as "our angel." Sharon Smith, a private citizen who the Cherrixes didn't know beforehand, was so inspired by their story that she contacted them to offer help. "She found Dr. Smith (no relation), our attorneys, handled the media, and put herself on the line financially, Rose said.

Elizabeth Simpson, a newspaper reporter for the Virginian-Pilot, played a key role in bringing attention to the Cherrix's plight for health care freedom, and she still keeps in touch with the family. The local radio station also got involved. "Without the media I don't think we could have done it," Abraham said.

State and local government also came to the Cherrix's aid. Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonald filed a brief to the Circuit Court in support of the Cherrix's right of appeal and allowing time for it to play out. Virginia Beach Delegate John Welch III made a statement quoted in the Associated Press, saying Abraham's parents were "fiercely devoted to their son, and have fully dedicated the family's resources to helping him get well." Believing that the medical community had "no reason to take over parental rights," he drafted a bill bearing Abraham's name that would allow children fourteen and over to help make their own medical choices.
"Abraham's Law" was passed by the General Assembly in 2007 and signed into law by Governor Kaine. Abraham spoke on his own behalf at a congressional hearing in Richmond in the lead-up to the bill being passed.

Neither Rose nor Abraham hold any grudges related to their ordeal. "We tried to concentrate on making something good come from something bad," Rose said. Abraham is able to find humor and irony in what he has been through. "It was the most fun time of my life. I like to meet new people. I took my first plane ride, a cross country bus trip, and went to a foreign country," he joked.

The Cherrixes landed in Floyd in the spring of 2007 by way of an unlikely sequence of events. After losing their home, Rose began looking online for rentals. She needed something affordable and large enough to raise her five children, two of whom have autism. While online, she was browsing through emails on Abraham's website, a site dedicated to sharing health information and providing updates on Abraham's progress. Rose explained that she and Abraham had to stop reading the emails because there were so many. But on that day, a name caught her eye. Because Abraham's full name is Starchild Abraham Cherrix, she felt an affinity when she saw another unique name in an email written by a Floyd girl named "Cherub."

Abraham and Cherub became friends and when Rose discovered a rental listing for a farmhouse off Route 8 in Floyd, she asked Cherub's mother, Linda Kearn, to check it out. The roomy size of the house and the natural rural setting seemed a perfect place for the Cherrix family to thrive, and for Abraham to pursue his interests in art and the study of computer engineering.

Abraham and Rose both agree they are in the right place. "We call Floyd a healing place. Everyone has been so welcoming and accepting," Rose said. "People do what the want and no one is criticized for what they believe," added Abraham, who is now receiving holistic health care from Floyd's Dr. Garry Collins.

Mother and son recently returned to the Spoken Word stage to share their original poetry. Another round of applause ensued when Rose announced that Abraham had just turned eighteen. Abraham, who recently added "Dreaming Wolf" to his name, read a poem about a wolf. Rose read a tribute for her son's birthday, titled "Loving You by Letting Go." ... Instead of me giving you strength ... You gave me strength ... When our world was falling apart ... You were there for me ... Loving me - holding me ... So wise beyond your years ... Yet so much to learn still ... she read.

An eighteenth birthday is a milestone in any young person's life. In Abraham's case it's especially true. "I guess I got smarter overnight," he joked, referring to his newfound freedom to legally make his own health care choices. "Age is not the issue. Health care choice should be based on maturity level," he added. ~ Colleen Redman

Note: More about Abraham and his mother at the Spoken Word Open Mic in Floyd is HERE. This entry was originally posted on Loose Leaf Notes on July 14, 2008.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Local Brethren Churches Celebrate 300th Year Anniversary

~ The following was published in the Floyd Press on 6/19/08

Thirteen branches were represented at the 300th year anniversary celebration of the Brethren Church, which was founded in Germany in 1708. The event took place at the Beaver Creek Church of the Brethren on Saturday and drew a full house of church members and guests. It was the first social event held in the church’s recently built Social Hall.

Members of the church dressed in period clothing, in styles that dated back to 1790 when Brethren from Pennsylvania first settled on the land that is known today as Floyd County. Event tables showcased historical church items, some of which were provided by Beaver Creek Brethren church member Donna (Spangler) Graham.

Graham lives in the house that once belonged to her grandparents. The house remains home to a number of family heirlooms. She pointed out an antique church songbook that had her grandmother’s name, Clara B. Vest, inscribed in it. It was a gift given to her grandmother by her grandfather prior to their marriage in 1919. Graham said her grandfather, Herman Spangler, preached at several Floyd Brethren churches, including the original Beaver Creek church, which moved to the current Ridgeview Road location in 1945. Among Graham’s collection of church memorabilia was a photo of a past congregation of men in front of the old Beaver Creek church. There was also a small bell she remembered as a child being rung when it was time for church to start.

Lester and Judy Weddle began the scheduled musical entertainment, leading the group in song. Judy Weddle is the daughter of a previous Brethren church pastor.

Guest speaker at the themed celebration was District Executive David Shumate. Mixing humor, prayer, and storytelling, Shumate spoke on the history of the church and on his own Floyd roots. He noted that Floyd has the distinction of being the first to allow English speaking members into the Brethren church in large numbers, which was considered very liberal in 1800.

~ Originally posted on loose leaf notes on July 2, 2008.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Stand Up For Strays

~ The Following was published in the Floyd Press on June 12, 2008

Floyd County’s chapter of the Humane Society was founded in 1999 by the late Aletha Pearson. An earlier version of the chapter existed during the 80’s but was short lived. In the nine years that the current chapter has been active, the group has accomplished much, heightening community awareness of responsible ownership of pets, promoting the neutering/spaying of pets, and facilitating adoptions of homeless cats and dogs.

At the Society’s annual Stand up for Strays event, held at the Cross Creek Complex this past Saturday, Michele Harvell, a longtime Humane Society member, explained that the event is a fundraiser that also serves as community outreach.

Under the shade of the adoption tent, where four dogs needing homes were in cages, Harvell explained how the group takes animals from the pound and places them in foster homes until they can find adoptive families.

The all volunteer, donation supported group, which has about fifteen active members, meets at the New River Community Action Center at 6:30 P.M. on the second and forth Tuesday of each month. “We get great support from the community – cat food, dog food, and other donations,” Harvell said. She and her daughter Sarah brought two of their dogs from home. One, a dwarf dachshund named Anna was rescued by the Harvells when it was discovered that the dog was about to be dumped.

Sunny Bernardine, who was dubbed by Aletha Pearson as a Humane Society “life time member,” currently has four personal dogs and four fosters, she said. Two of her foster dogs, a white Brittany mix and a Catahoula, were at the event looking for adoption prospects. When Bernardine was asked if she had help caring for so many dogs, she joked, “I need help!” The Humane Society has built a total of four roofed kennels on Bernardine’s property.

Music played as event goers browsed through the yard sale tent or enjoyed a hot dog. Some blew bubbles at the Games Tent. A dog was being washed in a tub of flea and tick dip. Darcie Luster, the current Humane Society president, was spritzing water on young kittens that were wilting in the 90 degree heat.

Two Girl Scout volunteers, Denise Schmeitzel and Hannah Ballinger, ran a raffle booth. They were happy to rattle off possible prizes to passersby. Prizes included a Floyd Fest ticket, A Hokie game ticket, and some original art. When Ballinger was asked if she was a Human Society member, she smiled and said, “I’m going to be when I grow up.” ~ Colleen Redman

Post Notes: Michele Harvell is pictured in the first photo, petting Sunny Bernardine's foster dogs who are in need of a permanent home. For more information on the Humane Society, you can visit their website HERE.

~ This entry was originally posted on Loose Leaf Notes on June 16, 2008.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Wiggle Jiggle Jamboree at the Floyd Country Store

The following was published in the Floyd Press on May 15, 2008

We all work together with a giggle and a grin. With a wiggle and a giggle and a google and a goggle and a jigger and a jagger and a giggle and a grin. ~ Woody Guthrie

It was a jamboree of a different kind at the Floyd Country Store this past Saturday morning when kids from all over the county took to the dance floor to wiggle and giggle to the music of Kari Kovick. Some were students of Kovick’s Early Childhood Music Program. Others came with their parents for the morning’s interactive concert and joined in the infectious fun. Kovick was accompanied by her band, Windfall, which features Dave Fason on banjo and guitar, Rusty May on acoustic bass, and her husband Michael Kovick on fiddle and harmonica.

Known for her angelic singing voice and her engaging stage presence, Kovick also plays guitar. When babies and young children are in the audience she knows how to tune into them and turn up the volume of fun.

“We didn’t get enough snow this winter, so we made some of our own,” Kovick said from the stage before producing two large bags full of fluffy white balls and emptying them onto the dance floor. She hopped down from the stage, and a snowball fight ensued to the tune of an old time jig played intermittently by Windfall. Every time the band stopped playing, the dancers froze in their places.

Other interactive songs included a tickle game, which parents participated in, and a two part harmony between children in the role of crows and others acting as songbirds. Community is important to Kovick. “Music is a fun way to bring us all together,” she said. She closed the hour-long show with a lullaby, with those who knew the words singing along.snowballs3.jpg

A round of applause was given for the concert sponsors, The Community Foundation of the New River Valley and the Floyd Foundation, when Kovick cited their involvement. Thanks also went to Jackie and Woody Crenshaw for providing the space for musicians and dancers of all ages.

When not doing children’s music, the acoustic quartet plays folk, blues, rock, Celtic, as well as old time and bluegrass standards. There website is HERE. ~ Colleen Redman

~ Originally posted on Loose Leaf Notes on May 30, 2008.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Mother’s Day Farm Tour

The following was published in The Floyd Press on May 15, 2008.

The rain didn’t deter garden lovers from participating in the Mother’s Day Farm Tour at Full Circle and Five Penny Farms in Floyd this past Sunday. Traffic up and down the long dirt driveway into Full Circle Farm for the open house event was steady in spite of weather.

The Farm Tour, now in its 4th year, has been growing in attendance each year. “We had about two hundred visitors last year,” said Tenley Weaver (pictured in blue shirt and boots). Weaver runs the certified organic farm off Spangler Mill Road with her partner, Dennis Dove. “I grow the flowers and herbs and Dennis does the vegetables,” she said.

It seems that flowers and garden greenery go hand in hand with Mother’s Day. One family shopping for plants traveled up to Floyd from Roanoke after meeting Dove recently at the Roanoke Natural Food Store and hearing about the Farm Tour from him. Enjoying their Mother’s Day outing, the family was purchasing plant seedlings for their garden. “We’re trying to go organic,” the mother said.

Weaver and Dove are not only full-time market growers; they operate Good Food-Good People, a local fresh produce distributing network. “It’s a private cooperative business,” Weaver said. “We represent twenty-five to thirty growers from the backyard farmer to bigger farms. We wholesale to restaurants in Blacksburg, Roanoke, the New River Valley, on the Parkway, and to health food stores,” she explained.

The Full Circle Farm Tour featured several large greenhouses filled with flowers, herbs, and vegetables starts. Booth displays of local products overlooked rows of growing greens and included those from Weathertop Farms, Brights Farm and Chef Natasha Shishkevish. A horse pull activity was canceled because of the rain, but Abe Goorsky played fiddle in the early part of the day, Weaver reported.

Pointing out pots of pineapple and tangerine sage, Weaver broke a leaf off from one of the plants to release its aroma. “It’s not like turkey sage,” she said. “It’s used for culinary purposes and it makes a nice tea,” she added. Everything grown on the Full Circle Farm is edible, even the flowers. There were pansies, nasturtiums, snap dragons, and calendula.

“My goal is to grow every culinary herb that any chef could want,” Weaver said. She also runs Greens Garage, which provides local products to the neighborhood and to word-of-mouth traffic. The Garage, described by Weaver as “a farm stand and more,” is open year-round and sells fresh organic and biologically-grown vegetables, local free range and grass fed beef and pork, local honey, fresh eggs, regional cheeses, and more.

When asked if there’s ever a lull in the farm work, Weaver said, “It never slows down.” In the winter months she focuses on sales and marketing, and “lots of meetings” to coordinate with GFGP members who will be growing what in the upcoming year.

The sun broke out in the afternoon. At Five Penny Farm on Thomas Farm Road, two musicians performed on the deck of the wooden building that will soon house “The Shooting Creek Brewery.” The Brewery, on the Blue Ridge Wine Trail, has a planned grand opening in June, said farm owner Johanna Nichols. The farm, now in its fourth year of operation, is certified organic.

Children played on the grounds, a dog stretched out on the grass, and shoppers mulled through the hanging baskets of flowers and trays of leafy green farm grown plants. Some of the Farm Tour goers strolled up and down the rows of growing hop plants. The plants, prickly vines climbing up a string pole fence, will be used in special seasonal brews, Five Penny co-owner Brett Nichols said. ~ Colleen Redman

Note: The first two photos were taken at Full Circle Farm and the second two at Five Penny Farm. The above was first published on Loose Leaf Notes on May 12, 2008.