Post written by Loudoun Chamber former Intern, and new Membership Coordinator, Emma Royce
Winding down the mountainous roads of Bluemont, I headed out into the “field” for a morning at A Farm Less Ordinary. Owners Maya Wechsler and Greg Masucci graciously welcomed me into their house and I had the privilege of listening to their family’s story and get a tour of the farm that they call home.
Set high on a hill, far from the noise of Route 7, A Farm Less Ordinary is a nonprofit working farm specializing in the growing of organic produce. First founded in 2016, the vision for A Farm Less Ordinary is to provide a welcoming and safe community for both Maya and Greg’s family and also people with developmental and learning disabilities.
Maya and Greg sat me down at their kitchen table on a warm Thursday morning and began to tell me their story. They started out as self-proclaimed “city slickers” living near Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. When they realized that their autistic son, Max, had major sensory issues which required him to have a caretaker constantly with him, Maya and Greg decided they needed to make a major life change. “It was so stressful,” Greg says, “With a million people so close by, we knew that with Max we were going to have to do something different.” They decided to move Max and their daughter Delilah to a new home far away from the crazy bustle of D.C.
Greg, a realtor by trade, searched for country properties across a total of 6 different states. He said that this was quite a process, and that he was just about to give up before stumbling upon a plot of 24 serene acres tucked away in Bluemont, Virginia. This property provided a rural retreat from the zooming vehicles on Route 7 and Route 50 and was far away from the churning waters of the swollen Shenandoah River.
After settling in their new found haven, Maya and Greg decided that they would be staying there to provide Max his forever home. The thought of what Max would do after school and in young adulthood caused Maya and Greg to begin to brainstorm ideas for how they could help their son live a full life after childhood. Greg says that most kids with developmental disabilities age out of the school system by age 22 and that there is an 81% unemployment rate among adults with special needs. “We knew we needed to try something,” Maya and Greg tell me, and one night while on a date eating Thai food, they brainstormed the idea for a working farm on the back of a paper napkin.
Teaching themselves through books and research, Maya and Greg began to experiment with the concept of farming on their new property. Finding that their location’s soil and exposure to sunshine was ideal, they quickly grew so much produce in 2015 that it couldn’t be given away fast enough. Maya and Greg would end up donating the vast majority of their crop to Loudoun Hunger Relief and Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter.
Overwhelmed by the success of their little farm, Maya and Greg decided to launch a 501c3 organization called A Farm Less Ordinary in 2016. Their first endeavor was to create a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program which currently delivers fresh, local produce to Capitol Hill beginning in mid-May.
In early 2017, Maya and Greg began hiring 9 new adults with special needs. They introduced their employees to working 4-6 hours shifts in the fields while also emphasizing the importance of diet, exercise, and formulating relationships in the employees’ daily habits. Greg says that “without the component of work [in people’s lives], there aren’t many opportunities for socialization”. Greg teared up when telling me this, and said he is just so grateful for the opportunity they have to give their son Max a lifelong home, and also for the safe place they have built for others.
Maya took me out into the greenhouses and to the fields to meet the crew for the day. It was already blazing hot at 9:30 am, and the workers eagerly relaxed in the cool shade when they could. In the photos above, Josh poked holes in the white plastic covering and gently planted little baby lettuce plants inside the nestled nooks. When I ask how many different varieties of fruits and veggies that they produce, Maya laughs and replies that they grow everything but corn.
In 2019, A Farm Less Ordinary now boasts a large commercial greenhouse which the team learned to build by hand. They also have goats for milk and chickens for eggs. The team has begun pickling, to can produce, make goat’s milk soap, create jams and jellies, and blend fresh pesto made all by hand. These delicious items can be Leesburg Farmer’s Market every Wednesday from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. until Labor Day.
On June 22, 2019, several local businesses including Oakland Green Farm, Dolce and Ciabatta Bakery and Cafe, South Mountain Creamery, and International Cellars gathered with some of their donated goods and products for a 4-course meal created by Chef Justin Garrison of Justin Thyme Culinary for a Feast in the Field. Check out photos from the event, or see info about upcoming fundraisers, on their Facebook page or website.
Many thanks to Maya and Greg and the team for having me out to see everything. I was so privileged to see your family’s home and get to hear about the wonderful work you are doing.