FARM-TO-RETAIL PRICE SPREAD
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Safety, Health and Wellness initiative. Led by the coalition, the project includes several partners, including AgrAbility Virginia, Extension’s Human Development Program, Virginia State University’s Small Farm Outreach Program, the Virginia Farm Bureau Safety Advisory Committee and the Virginia Chapter of the Farmer Veteran Coalition.
Presenters shared resources for addressing farm stress and well-being, specifically related to the ongoing pandemic. The materials address several topics, including identifying and managing farm financial stress; understanding stress and grief in farm families; and improving mental health communication between farmers and farm organizations.
Dr. Kim Niewolny, director of AgrAbility Virginia and the Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition, said farm stress is not new.
“But how we address the issue today is pretty significant,” she said in the webinar. The coalition’s Farm Safety, Health and Wellness team’s rapid assessment of farmer stress, safety and suicide conditions in Virginia brought the scope of the epidemic into focus.
With a fresh understanding, the team identified how to best create educational resources and programs that can help alleviate, divert and uplift stressed farm families.
“This work isn’t transactional, this is all about relationships,” Niewolny said. “We need to do more to break down the stigma of mental health in the farming community. And while it can be daunting, we also need to do better to understand and communicate how farm-related stress does not happen in a vacuum.
“Farmers and farmworkers are experiencing social and economic stressors, including those associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Those familiar with agriculture know that it can be difficult to talk about these issues, making it a challenge to connect farmers with the support they need.”
Presenters discussed a series of tools and programs created for service providers and educators to better assist farm families in crisis. They also raised awareness of current programs led by Extension agents and AgrAbility Virginia field staff for continued education and community outreach.
A SLICE OF HEAVEN ON EARTH
At the Foot of Short Hill Mountain - Doukénie Winery
In the words of Nicki Bazaco
No discussion of life on the farm today, at Doukénie, will be meaningful until we share how we got to where we are today. Were we farmers? No. Are we farmers today? Yes! Credit for our success must be given to two strong women in our lives. First, George’s grandmother, Doukénie Babayanie Bacos, who in 1919, at the age of 14, boarded a boat for the journey to America from her native Greece. It is her courage, tenacity, hard work and sense of adventure that is instilled in her grandson, my husband, George Bazaco. Second, is George’s mother, Hope. Hope is the matriarch of our family and it is Hope’s welcoming smile and her delicious baklava that continues to greet and delight all visitors and locals to our tasting room.
George and I purchased the slice of land we consider “heaven”, where the winery stands today, in 1983. In total, we purchased two tracks for a total of 496 acres. Just .2 miles from Hillsboro and at the base of Short Hill Mountain, the land had been farmed for corn, hay and cattle; with rich farm soils, abundant wildlife, waters and beautiful views, it was a slice of “heaven.”
"It’s either grape jelly or wine.”
We were not “farmers” as such though we knew the land was ripe for farming. George was and still is, a busy pulmonary physician. Initially we started with cattle followed by sheep for five years on the land. In the mid-eighties, viticulture was just taking off in Virginia so when a local vineyard down the street came to us looking for grapes, we thought why not? Three generations of the Bazaco family planted our first Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and we never looked back. As George comments, “Nicki – it’s either grape jelly or wine.” We moved out to the house in 2001 and began bottling our wine in the basement. Shortly after we built the winery, where the wine is bottled today.
The industry is very inclusive, so we had a lot of help in learning the business. George always felt that surrounding yourself with experts was the best way to learn and having a farm winery was no different. We placed the property in conservation easement with LTV in 2007 and we firmly believe that this was one of the best decisions we ever made. I sat on several boards, one of which was the Rural Economic Committee, where I learned firsthand how the growth of Loudoun County was taking away our open spaces at an alarming rate.
When the COVID shutdown began this past March, and the tasting room closed, we were forced like many other wineries, to rethink our model. With a creative staff and dedicated club members, we have been able to do just that. We began by offering free shipping and curbside pickup. Though shipping was offered, our Heritage club members chose to pick their wine up themselves. To our amazement, many of the members doubled their purchases!
George is still working as a physician and is once again, discussing his annual trip to Haiti with Medical Missionaries. As a farmer too, on any day you can see him on his tractor out here on the farm. Though I am not in my “office”, the tasting room now, my hopes are that I will soon…be greeting you.
So, please come and visit us in our slice of “heaven.”