Culpeper County’s loss was Albemarle County’s gain in 2015. Not that there’s any notable competition between the two spectacularly scenic, agricultural counties, about 30 miles from each other in the heart of Virginia. It’s just that 2015 was when Holly and James Hammond officially moved their Whisper Hill farming operation from Culpeper south to Scottsville.
They had been practicing sustainable agriculture on leased property in Culpeper for five years. But as often happens with any business, a variety of circumstances forced them to shift gears and they found the ideal landing place along Route 20, just south of Charlottesville. Whisper Hill is located on a sprawling farm called Maple Hill Farm. It has been certified organic since the early 2000s, but had been uncultivated for many years. Now, the Hammond’s have it looking amazing, with rows of vegetables, flowers, and cover crops.
Maintaing organic status is a natural for these two, who are fully committed to sustainable practices. They manage about 15 acres, and have about eight of those planted at any given time in-season. Of those eight, about half are planted in cover crops. Cover cropping is an integral part of sustainable agriculture, helping keep the soil healthy through nitrogen fixation and weed control. In fact, the Hammonds seem just as proud of their cover crops as they do their production crops.
During dry periods, they drip irrigate with the use of local well water. Weeding and cultivating is done by hand. We repeat: by hand. While the Hammonds may downplay this, if you stand on the hill by their house overlooking the fields, you will appreciate what a monumental task this is. Give them a hug of thanks when you see them at the farmers market!
In addition to selling at City Market, Farmers in the Park, and the Nelson County market, Whisper Hill makes its products available through a CSA subscription.