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July 27, 2017

Casanova CSA features produce, flowers and beer

We just really like the idea of owning a business and being able to take care of a piece of property, a piece of land.
— Farm and brewery owner Kevin Powers
Powers Farm & Brewery
• Owners: Kevin and Melody Powers.

• What: CSA programs featuring produce, flowers and beer.

• Where: 9269 Redemption Way, near Casanova.

• CSA: 20 weeks of produce, full share, $600; half share, $300; 14-week flower share, $135 ($110, if added to vegetable share); 20 weeks of beer, one 64-ounce growler per week, $360.

• Taproom hours: 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; noon to 8 p.m. Saturday; noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.

• Employees: Three full-time, including the owners, and two part-time.

• Phone: 540-272-5060

• Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

• Website: Click here.

• Facebook: Click here.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The Casanova-area couple gave up solid, white-collar desk jobs to work the land for a living.

Melody Powers, 34, had been a research assistant at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Washington when she resigned three years ago to start a farm in Fauquier.

About a year later, her husband Kevin, 33, quit his accounting job with Vox Media Inc. — a D.C.-based startup — to join her.

Using a community-supported agriculture (CSA) model, Powers Farm & Brewery sells produce, flowers and beer.

No other CSA in Fauquier or the area, for that matter, produces beer, Mr. Powers says.

With no regrets, the couple gave up plenty to launch their business — temperature-controlled offices, regular paychecks, fixed work schedules and benefits.

“We always wanted to do it,” says Mrs. Powers, a native of rural, northeastern Pennsylvania who oversees the farm’s produce and flower operation. “You know how the stars align? It actually worked out. It’s amazing.”

“We just really like the idea of owning a business and being able to take care of a piece of property, a piece of land,” says Mr. Powers, a native of suburban Cleveland who makes the beer. “We always ate sustainable and organic food. It was basically fun to be part of the source of that. That was part of the motivation for it.”

For 20 weeks of produce — June through October — CSA members pay $600 for a full share and $300 for a half share. A 14-week flower share costs $135 (and $25 less if added to a produce share). Twenty weeks of beer — a 64-ounce growler per week — costs $360.

By mid-June, the CSA had sold all of its 44 produce shares. As of Wednesday, it had about 10 beer subscribers.

The Powerses initially established the CSA on 11 acres they bought along Deborah Drive near New Baltimore.

But a couple years ago, they began to think about moving to a place more compatible with their long-term vision.

So last year, they bought 21 acres along Meetze Road west of Casanova.

“We thought this was the best place to do the whole operation,” Mr. Powers explains. “We had always planned to open the brewery. This is a better location to do the farm, the hop yard, animals and the brewery, which are all part of the plan.”

They also prefer the new farm because the Casanova area “feels a little bit more agricultural” than New Baltimore and because Meetze Road provides easier access for Warrenton customers and those from their Manassas market days.

“This is sort of in between,” Mr. Powers says of the farm.

Of the 21 acres, nine remain open, with about a half-acre devoted to more than 30 kinds of vegetables, fruits and flowers.

The range of produce varies from week to week.

“Whatever’s ready to be harvested, that’s what they get,” Mrs. Powers says. “I try to focus on as much diversity as I can.

“Like a half share will get four to six different items a week. And probably half those items might be similar to what they got the previous week. I try to build on it, where they get at least one new item a week.”

Among other things, members this week received heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, leeks, red potatoes, red beans, summer squash, cucumbers, kale, carrots and basil.

Mrs. Powers has two pick-up places in Fauquier — the Old Town Athletic Club in Warrenton and Whiffletree Farm southwest of town — and a third in Manassas.

Mr. Powers has set aside a half-acre for about 1,000 hop plants. The first-year crop should yield 100 to 200 pounds of fresh hops, which he will combine with dried ones grown on the farm and purchased from other farmers to make beer.

Within four years, he expects to harvest 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of hops annually.

“The process of fresh hopping is pretty unusual here,” Mr. Powers says. “Historically, for logistical reasons, 99.9 percent of hops were grown in the Pacific Northwest for several decades — more than that maybe.

“When I first started moving out here, I would talk to some brewers who were having to overnight them from the Pacific Northwest. They had to be used basically within 24 hours.”

Fresh hops give beer “a little fresher, slightly grassier flavor,” Mr. Powers says. “It’s the difference between a dried herb and a fresh herb. But, more than anything, it’s just a new way to use them that takes advantage of a hop in a slightly different way.”

A 1,464-square-foot converted pole barn sheathed in red metal houses the brewery and tap room, which can seat about 40 people.

With five stainless steel Psycho Brew fermenters, Mr. Powers ultimately hopes to produce 500 barrels a year. Each barrel contains 31 gallons.

A self-taught brewer, he expects this year to make 150 to 200 barrels.

“It’s a very modest-sized system,” Mr. Powers says. “And it’s set up to use a lot of untraditional ingredients — herbs and fruits and all kinds of things I can throw into the different processes.”

“I tell him what’s ready for harvest and what goes well,” his wife adds. “He figures how to make it happen.”

That could mean flavoring beer with watermelon, cantaloupe, mint, coriander or squash.

“We’re even considering a tomatillo and pepper beer,” Mr. Powers says.

He typically has seven beers on tap, including a new recipe each week.

Depending on the brew, a 64-ounce growler goes costs $20 to $22.

“We’re trying to work out the logistics of being able to be in a handful of small, local restaurants,” Mr. Powers says. “That’s still months out. There are licensing reasons why it’s going to be a pain to do.”

The brewery helps diversify the business and provide a year-round income source.

“It will help us be economically more stable,” Mr. Powers says. “The CSA model is basically that we’re able to collect money at the beginning of the year and then we don’t really sell anything for 45 weeks. We don’t collect CSA checks. So the brewery helps that aspect of it.”

The couple declined to say how much they have invested in the brewery.

But, while they haven’t spent as much as some of breweries, "it’s sizable,” Mr. Powers says.

Fauquier has three other breweries — Wort Hog Brewing Co. in Warrenton, Old Bust Head Brewing Co. at Vint Hill and Barrel Oak Farm Taproom near Delaplane.

Most the CSA’s 45 produce members claim their goods Thursday afternoon.

Nikki Manns, 31, makes the weekly trip from Manassas.

Her family began buying the Powers’ produce two years ago at the Manassas Farmers Market.

They purchase a full-share and a half, which costs $900 for 20 weeks of produce.

The family belongs to the CSA because they want to know “where food comes from, how it’s grown and what’s in season,” Ms. Manns says.

At generally $45 per week, the mother of three pays a “little bit more” for produce than she would at a supermarket.

But, “for a family of five who eats a lot of veggies, it’s definitely doable,” Ms. Mann says. “Our girls love to eat salad. Our second oldest likes to eat cooked greens — collards and kale, red beans and rice.”

Jeff and Swenja Hipsley of Warrenton believe the taproom will provide folks much-needed relief after a busy day.

“People are dying for a place like this, where you can sit outside, have a beer, be away from the hustle and bustle,” says Mr. Hipsley, a 53-year-old diagnostic specialist with a Northern Virginia vehicle dealership who ordered a passion-flower flavored saison. “And we like to support the local community.”

“We love it,” says Mrs. Hipsley, 48, sipping a lemongrass-flavored pilsner. “It feels really like countryside, but so close to Warrenton. It’s a neat place; we’re definitely going to come back.”

John DeBonis, 53, of Midland ordered a spelt malt.

“Excellent,” concludes Mr. DeBonis, a Northern Virginia law enforcement officer. “It’s got just the right hoppiness . . . a fruity hoppiness.”

As for the brewery and taproom, he adds: “I think this is what the county needs. It gives residents some place to hang out. It keeps it local.”
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