David Lay Farms
David Lay Farms
“The more successful chefs in the region are huge proponents of local farmers.”
- CSA Program
- Featured Produce Partner at Root to Table events
- Preferred provider to area top “real food” restaurants
1080 Marlboro Rd.
Stephens City, VA 22655
PET POLICY At this time we do not allow pets on the farm
An interview with David Lay – Owner and Operator of David Lay Farms
David Lay was an early producer for the “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” movement adopted by chain groceries stores years ago. Now he’s redefined his vision with David Lay Farms, working with top regional chefs in the locally sourced food movement. But not only is he a pioneer of sustainable food, he is also committed to his family, his farm, and his folk music.
Lay came to the land as a child on the Tennessee homestead with grandparents and uncles as farmers. In fact, Lay paid for his first two years at the University of Tennessee in the mid-70’s (where he graduated with an agriculture degree) with a 3 acre patch of yellow squash. And his “genetic inclusion” as Lay calls it, contained some hospitality DNA. A grandfather worked as head baker at the Waldorf Hotel as well as on the Great Lakes steam liners.
Children, Chefs, and CSA’s
After Lay and his wife Linda moved to the Winchester area, he worked for West Oaks Farm Market. Then COVID hit. David and Linda are raising two school aged grandchildren. While Linda carried on with a day gig off the farm, David became the primary caretaker for the kids. “With remote learning and all the school closings, I ended up taking on more responsibility with the children,” says Lay. “I planted a 3 acre garden and off we went, selling mainly to restaurants. Farming enables us to do what we have to do now, especially raising these children.”
And Lay’s “genetic inclusion” has served him well. He’s built relationships with chefs at some of the premier locally sourced restaurants in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, including Magnolia’s at the Mill, West End Wine Bar, Bonnie Blue, and Field & Main. He’s a regular provider for Chef Erik Foxx-Nettnin of custom “real food” caterer The Polished Foxx. David Lay Farms is also a produce partner for Taste of Blue Ridge Chefs at Root to Table culinary events.
“The more successful chefs in the region are huge proponents of local farmers,” says Lay. “You work to build relationships with the folks and actually become more than a vendor.” And chefs, says the farmer, are willing to think seasonally.
While the farm may seem small by some standards, it’s “intensely grown” says Lay. Along with restaurants, David Lay Farms also caters to the CSA (community supported agriculture) crowd. This year the farm will offer two 12-week CSA subscriptions that include DELIVERY TO YOUR DOOR or pickup at the farm. Delivery areas include Frederick and Clarke counties, portions of the WV panhandle and Loudoun County. And to round out the farm’s bounty, Lay is also an “agri-gator” for 4P Foods, a large CSA/farm share program in the Washington, DC area.
“Music is a part of who we are.”
And if running a farm and raising two grandkids isn’t enough, David and Linda are also accomplished folk and bluegrass musicians. “Music is a part of who we are – just like family,” says David. The couple met through music and married after a whirlwind 10 week courtship. The two have played at concerts and festivals around the country, including the 4th of July celebration on the National Mall and New York’s Lincoln Center. And they’ve brought their music to England, Ireland, and Scotland as well.
“I’m very passionate about my wife, farming, and our music.” Linda, says David, is the “real deal.” Not only does she work off site, she’s also involved in the farm’s planting, picking, delivery and “computer stuff.” And she is a Master Artist with Virginia’s Foundation for the Humanities. Linda is an International Bluegrass Music Awards winner, has music on the Cracker Barrel label and songs in rotation on Sirius/MX’s Bluegrass Junction.
What we’ve learned…
In some ways, COVID changed local agriculture for the better – from online stores to new CSA programs. “Local agriculture has actually benefited from the pandemic,” says Lay, and will continue to grow. He cites heightened consumer awareness as to where food comes from, a new or renewed interest in cooking, and folks being brought “back to the table” for family meals as positives from this time.
If you’re a chef who wants to connect for locally sourced produce, call David at (540) 974-0177. And learn more about David Lay’s CSA through the farm’s Facebook page.