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Northern Virginia Farm Has Deep Roots In Organic Agriculture

Photo Courtesy Potomac Vegetable Farms

The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that there are about 1.9 million farms in the U.S., and they all tell a different story. Some are operated by massive agri-businesses, others are family-owned and passed down through generations, and some started as passion projects by non-farmers. The latter group includes Potomac Vegetable Farms (PVF) in Vienna, Virginia.

PVF grows what it refers to as “ecoganic” vegetables in Northern Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. The business owns and operates two farms: one in the suburbs of Tysons Corner and a larger one in western Loudoun County. Its vegetables, herbs, and cut flowers are available at farmers markets, a pair of on-farm roadside stands, and PVF’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

Photo Courtesy Potomac Vegetable Farms 

The PVF website lists a wide variety of produce, ranging from beets and Bok choi to callaloo, Chinese broccoli, fava beans, kale, sweet potatoes, and tomatillos. The farm uses sustainable practices to grow its produce, such as making its own compost and applying rock powders, natural minerals, and sea products to ensure nutrient-rich food.

The PFV website notes that the farm uses “winter cover crops and summer green manure crops religiously” to keep its “soil microbes happy and healthy.”

The operation describes its agricultural practice as “ecoganic.” It adopted the model after a “tiny bit of hair-pulling and heart-wrenching” over the challenges it faced as a certified organic farm. As PVF explains on its website, the process of maintaining a certified organic designation “has become tougher, more complicated, much more expensive, and more painful,” compounded by a “drastic” increase in paperwork.

PVF had been certified organic since 1990 but decided to stop pursuing the designation in 2003. Although the business has given up the official “certified” label, it continues to grow only organic food.

Photo Courtesy Potomac Vegetable Farms 

Organic and sustainable agriculture has been a key focus of PVF for many decades. Its roots date back to the early 1960s, when Tony and Hiu Newcomb started farming on rented land in Fairfax County, Virginia. At the time, Tony worked as an economist for the federal government, and the couple lived in Washington, D.C. 

According to the PVF site, “they had no farming experience and practically no money, but over the years, they gradually accumulated more of both.” In 1966, the couple bought five acres of property near Tysons Corner and cleared a small field.

In 1970, the Newcombs decided to become full-time farmers. They sold their Dupont Circle home in Washington and spent the next decade or so buying more property in northern Virginia and hiring staff. 

Photo Courtesy Potomac Vegetable Farms 

Tony passed away from lymphoma in 1984, but Hiu still lives and works on the farm year-round. She cares for the “off-beat varieties of vegetables” grown at the Vienna location and manages the business details.

Other members of the PVF team include Hiu and Tony’s daughter, Hana Newcomb, who manages both farms. Carrie Nemec joined the operation in 2006 and is now one of its owners and managers. 

Photo Courtesy Potomac Vegetable Farms 

In addition to growing and selling produce, PVF is part of a CSA that operates over a 25-week season from the beginning of June through mid-November. The CSA is a multi-farm collaboration that lets PVF start its delivery season in late spring, including vegetables and fruits grown by other sustainable operations. 

PVF also provides educational programs such as tours for students, adults, and mixed-age groups, as well as youth-oriented farm training and exchange programs.

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