Michael and Kari Sponaugle of Church Hill Produce in Highland County have grown fresh fruit and vegetables since 2011. They expanded from 8 acres to 25 acres in 2017, growing and managing an acre of you-pick strawberries, an acre each of sweet corn and potatoes, and 17 acres of fall crops including Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, Cauliflower, and both Summer and Fall Squash.
In addition to managing the farm, they both work full-time off the farm – Kari serves as the Highland & Bath County 4-H Youth Development Agent and Michael works on his family’s cattle and poultry farm, which is adjacent to their produce farm. They rely on H2-A labor, part-time employees and family to care for their land.
As their family is growing (they have two sons, ages 3 and 1), they’re looking into wholesale markets to consolidate sales and become more efficient with their labor force. Our partnership with Church Hill Produce will enable them to reach a diverse group of customers and penetrate new geographic markets, while relieving some of the burden of marketing, billing, transportation, and other distribution logistics.
A natural spring provides the water for their farm, and they use cover crops in the off-season to protect and enrich their soil. Located west of the Shenandoah Valley where it is slightly cooler, they are about two weeks behind the Valley’s growing season, meaning they’ll continue to harvest after many of our growers are done for one season and transitioning to the next. We look forward to carrying their products throughout the season!
Church Hill Produce is a Local Food Hub partner farm. While their farm is not Certified Organic, Kari and Michael are trained and certified in pesticide management and use low or no-spray methods when treating plants. In 2017, Church Hill Produce received GAPs certification through Local Food Hub’s Grower Services, enabling them to further expand fresh markets for their produce. We are proud to partner with Local Food Hub to connect small family farmers in Virginia to 4P FOODS customers.
Pictures courtesy of Local Food Hub.