Shenandoah County has a long history as an agricultural community and historically was nicknamed “The breadbasket of the south”. The landscape still reflects that history, and many family farms are designated “Century Farms” a distinction that honors a farm that has been continually in use by one family for more than a hundred years.
While the term “Sustainability” has a modern feel to it, the concept is not one that is new to Shenandoah County. More than ¼ of the land is covered in National Forest and the town of Woodstock, centrally located, and the county seat is proud to be in its 17th-year as an Arbor Day Foundation “Tree City”. This year, the Town also won the Tree City USA Growth Award for the 10th year in a row, which shows that Woodstock continues to build on its tree program’s success. All of this, of course, helps to promote cleaner air and a natural canopy to keep our area an average of 10 degrees cooler than the large cities to the east. Woodstock is also home to the Indian Spring Wetland. An environmental, interpretive area located on the southern end of town. More information about the wetland and how it functions as pollutant removal, flood control, groundwater control, and wildlife habitat can be found HERE.
The landscape in Shenandoah County is not where the sustainability features end. It is with great pride that many of the restaurants and farm stands boast locally-sourced foods on their menu and in their shops. Beginning as extensions of family farms, Mowery Orchard, Jon Henry General Store and Woodbine Farm Market are all well-established places to shop for local food items and most of all, fresh produce. Jon Henry General takes it to the next level by offering SNAP and EBT benefits, plus a refund on public transportation so that more members of the community have access to local produce.
This commitment to locally-sourced foods not only helps the local economy but lessens- even if just a little- the amount of fuel burned and emissions spent trucking things in.
A few more businesses that source locally are Pancake Underground in Strasburg. Not only are their menu items creative and cool, they’ve created a list on their website of all of their local and regional sources. In Woodstock, the Woodstock Cafe sources fresh produce from Adam’s Apples and Herbs just down the road. Not to be confused with the Woodstock Garden Cafe whose owners source many fresh foods from their own farm as well.
In Edinburg, Swover Creek Farms is a Century Farm that grows their own foods for their wood fired pizza, and hand crafted beer. Then, neighboring J&L Green Farm provides the high-quality pasture raised meats & specialty farm products for Swover Creek’s delicious sausages made on site.
The town of Mount Jackson is home to the factory where the most delicious potato chips are made. Though originally established in 1992, Route 11 Potato Chips current location was built in 2008 with sustainability principles in mind so that they “could minimize our environmental footprint and get as close as we can to waste-free production.”
Some of these efforts include:
- feeding a local herd of cattle with potato peelings and chip rejects
- recycling paper, glass, metal, and plastic
- using local sources of potatoes as much as possible
- warming the kitchen in the winter through heat exchangers on the cooking kettles
- reflecting summer heat off of the white membrane roof, reducing energy use
- They even recycle the dirt off their potatoes.
Visitors can stop into a chip-tasting and fry-viewing room to see the process, then purchase their chips and some very cool merch!
There are plenty of other ways that the community is educated about sustainability here in Shenandoah County. There is a strong presence of Environmental Science and Agroecology taught at the high school level and there are several non-profit organizations dedicated to maintaining our beautiful landscape and our river including Sustainability Matters, which now serves a much larger footprint regionally, educating and promoting sustainability. It was “rooted” right here in the town of Edinburg. Their mission is to bring sustainability to unexpected places, whether it’s planting native wildflower meadows at landfills, teaching novice gardeners to grow their own food, or helping farmers access funding for conservation.
Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River (FNFSR) is an organization that strives to keep the North Fork of the Shenandoah River clean, healthy, and beautiful through advocacy, community action, education and science. They have also created a partnership with Seven Bends State Park which borders a 1.5 mile stretch of the North Fork. Both organizations are excellent ways to get the community and visitors involved. Their websites offer many opportunities to volunteer.
The breadbasket in Shenandoah County is still abundant after all these years, and “sustainability” might just be a new name for a lifestyle that is second nature to its residents, the people who visit and all who are inspired by its beauty.