Victory Farms, local CSA, announces new ownership and future plans

In July, Victory Farms, one of Richmond’s leading CSA farms as well as supplier of Ellwood Thompson’s and local restaurants, announced that their founders would be leaving the state. At that time, it was unknown as to what fate Victory Farms would meet. Not only has a new owner been made, but changes have already been planned for the future.

Victory Farms, one of Richmond’s leading Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms, has recently announced that their operations, which were once in question, will remain in the area. The Collins family, current owners of Victory Farms, announced back in July that they would be moving to Phoenix, AZ later this year. They have recently selected who will inherit their farm.

In an email sent to members of their CSA, Victory Farms announced that the current Farm Manager, Alistar Harris, will assume control of the farm beginning October 2nd. “We have every confidence that this will be a seamless transition,” wrote Gina Collins in the email. “We believe that with your support, this young grower and his family will continue to bring you the best produce in the area.”

Current owner and operator of the Hanover-based farm, Charlie Collins, has been farming since 1994. The five-acre property that he and his family own is entirely compost-fed and pesticide-free. Along with providing individuals with produce, Victory Farms serves as supplier to local grocer Ellwood Thompson’s and restaurants such as Citizen and the newly-opened Selba.

Future owner, Alistar Harris, comes from Cape Town, South Africa and has worked with the Collins family since October 2010. “Alistar spent a large part of his working life doing outdoor and environmental education and more recently doing climate change education,” writes Gina Collins. “Working with small-scale farmers in South Africa to adapt their farming practices to the weather conditions related to climate change. He grew up in a family that has always grown much of their own food in their backyard.”

Speaking over the phone, Harris said that “Charlie [Collins] and I have prepared for [the ownership change] in a very good way.” He went on to say that “I’m very confident with his continued help that I’ll able to do it.”

Contained in the email was a note from Alistar Harris and his family to the farm’s existing CSA members. “Charlie shared with me why he named their farm ‘Victory Farms’ and why they use the image of the carrot,” wrote Harris. “He spoke of the ‘victory’ over conventional commercial agriculture and the global food system by growing food in a natural, unconventional way, and by distributing it locally. The carrot for him symbolizes fertility, growth, vitality, and a deep-rooted belief in growing food in a sustainable way.”

Harris went on to say that “It is my hope that you will re-join us in continuing the great model of an agriculture supported community that the Collins’ have started here in Richmond. We would love to have you continue as a CSA member and support Victory Farms, and us as the new owners.”

Harris informed RVANews that “there won’t be immediate changes” to Victory Farms after he takes over. He did say, however, “we’re looking at new crops,” most notably organic asparagus, which they have cultivated an “experimental plot” in the hopes of offering the crop beginning as early as next year. Harris also mentioned that the farm will operate under the name Victory Farms, although beginning after 2012, the farm will likely undergo a “more personal” name change. Harris is also looking at ways to “create more CSA involvement at the farm.” Harris commented over the phone that his history with sustainable farming and his work at Victory Farms has led to both the opportunity and responsibility that he will he undertake next month. “It’s all come together.”

Applications for CSA memberships during the 2012 season will be made available in November. Victory Farms will also continue its presence at the Byrd House and South of the James farmers markets. Charlie Collins will serve as consultant and mentor to Harris until Harris and his family take over, and Gina Collins will provide administrative and CSA-related support.

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