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Alta Jones is living—and advocating for—the western Loudoun dream

Alta Jones with her husband, Steve, at their farm just outside Hillsboro. Courtesy Photo
A passionate community member who lives each day with optimism and determination, Alta Jones is embarking on a new role as chair of Loudoun's Rural Economic Development Council.

Jones grew up in Fairfax and attended West Springfield High School. She met her husband, Steve, while in college at George Mason University, and they were married in 1974.

After graduating, she began a long career in the finance industry. At the age of 40, with two young daughters, the family moved to the Midwest, where Jones worked in Des Moines, Iowa, and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

They always dreamed of moving back to Virginia and building a home where they could enjoy beautiful views of the countryside.

Fourteen years ago, Steve and Alta decided to begin a search for their dream home in Loudoun County. They took turns traveling back and forth from Minneapolis to look at properties, and on one of Steve's trips he found the “perfect spot” in Hillsboro.

“Steve called and said I am putting a contract on this property and you're going to love it. And I did,” she said.

They hired a local builder – Dale Schulz from Middleburg – and designed a custom home, which is a blend of arts and crafts style and southern cottage, and is built on the side of the Short Hill Mountains overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains.

They never intended on using the home for a bed and breakfast, but they realized with the views and space they had to offer, they would give it a try.

As the new chair of Loudoun's Rural Economic Development Council and owner of AltaTerra Bed and Breakfast in Hillsboro, Alta is enjoying this chapter of her life.

“I wanted to be a part of the rural economy and preserve it,” Jones said.

The council is made up of a group of rural business owners, representing various sectors of the industry.

“We need to give large property owners the opportunity to create income so they do not sell their property to a developer. If we do not offer alternatives, those subdivisions will happen,” Jones said.

Jones said the Rural Economic Development Council is focused on doubling the rural economy in Loudoun by 2023. Their initiatives include providing recommendations on programs and policies affecting the economic growth of rural Loudoun; supporting actions and developing policy recommendations to encourage a network of multi-modal trails with connections to businesses and towns; developing a consolidated year-round farmer's market in Loudoun; providing education and workforce training opportunities for the rural economy; and providing a forum through which the agricultural industry and rural business sector leaders meet to exchange ideas and experiences relative to rural economic development practices and policies.

“The challenge of the rural economy is farmers are aging, and there is a shortage of young farmers continuing the legacy. There is a stigma attached to farming, however technology and engineering is farming – using STEM skills sets.”

Jones said she brings many years of corporate, finance, and project management experience to the table in her new role.

“While I did not have a farm or business, I found this so exciting.”

As a bed and breakfast owner, she enjoys interacting with the guests who stay at Altaterra and hopes she can provide a wonderful experience.

“As bed and breakfast owners, we are really the ambassadors to the area,” she said.

In addition to the stunning views from AltaTerra, guests appreciate Alta's natural ability to entertain - – including wine and cheese upon arrival and an elegant French country breakfast in the morning.

A specialty of the house are the croissants she orders from France which are shipped frozen, so she can heat and serve them.

“Also, I make the world's greatest scrambled eggs, served with uncured bacon and usually fruit or tomatoes,” she said.

Another treat Jones swears by – plain greek yogurt with lime juice and local honey and fresh berries on top.

Guests will ask for her recommendations for dining, which wineries or breweries to visit, history tours, and recommendations for hiking and biking. She said most guests come and do a combination of those activities during their stay.

Gardening is her passion. Jones is a master gardener and is a tree-steward through the Loudoun extension program.

Jones said her work in the garden has been a lot of trial and error.

“We have put thousands of plants in and many have died, but I have learned how to take care of them,” she said.

A recent addition to AltaTerra: the Jones' have planted 4,400 petit verdot grapes and 2,200 petit manseng, which are managed by their next door neighbors at Hillsborough Vineyards. They are looking forward to producing an AltaTerra Vineyard label for family and friends and guests at the Inn.

Jones is also very involved with the town of Hillsboro, as it strives to become a  destination with amenities, shops, sidewalks, and restaurants.

“We can all do a little bit in our community and help make it better. We can do it, we can do it.”


This article was part of the Times-Mirror's 2017 Prime Time special section celebrating achievements and undertakings from the prime of Loudounders' lives. Click here to browse Prime Time.


The only thing that’s going to stop the development is zoning.  If all the towns in western Loudoun institute a mandatory 2 acres of land or more per housing unit, you’re not going to see developers rushing out to buy from the farmers.  The town councils also need to stick to their guns about it too.

This is not really the complete story on housing is it?  Firstly, many of these rural ventures are on less than 40 acres; you can’t build more than one house on that - so no development saving there.  The fact that you open a B&B, winery, event center or brewery does not stop you from also building houses -  this is relevant for larger properties where you can build more houses as well as whatever rural business.  If you have enough land you don’t give up your subdivision ability just because you have a business.  Some those houses can come anyway.  Let’s tell people in the Loudoun the whole story. Then the question begins is how rural are many of these business some are production which frankly is “quasi commercial”.

while I didn’t appreciate the building of houses along the upper portions of Short Hill, I do appreciate people that try to lessen their footprint and to preserve the rural character that should be embraced, not pillaged, in Western Loudoun.

Now that they’ve built their perfect home in Hillsboro, they don’t want others to do the same?  Hmmm…..

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