Loudoun County's Andrew Crush of Spring House Farm is one of the best farmers in the country.
Each year, The Progressive Farmer Magazine, the largest circulation farm magazine in the U.S., selects five of America's best young farmers and ranchers. Crush was one of this year's honorees, and he was recently recognized along with fellow farmers at an awards ceremony at the DTN/The Progressive Farmer Ag Summit in Chicago.
"With his innovative farming practices and top-flight marketing strategy, Andrew is a role model for the farming industry," says Gregg Hillyer, editor-in-chief for The Progressive Farmer. "We are fortunate to have producers such as Andrew moving into leadership roles both in their communities and into the agricultural industry."
Crush, who views his farm as a "work in progress," was surprised by the honor, which was the result of a nomination made by Chef Kyle Bailey, formerly of Birch and Barley, a Washington, D.C. restaurant that buys meat from the farm.
Crush started small but is steadily and carefully expanding. And the ever-busy farmer -- who also works as a firefighter -- is a master at getting the most out of his day. When asked if the plan was to someday make farming his full-time job, he laughed.
"It's already full-time!"
In addition to lots of time, keeping cows, goats and pigs require lots of land, too. And while there is plenty of land out there suitable for livestock, there are complicated factors to consider when finding the right land.
"Short-term leases can be had for little or nothing [largely because of tax benefits of agricultural use of the land], but the problem is you don't know if you're going to be in there next year or not," Crush said as he worked, moving temporary fencing to allow cows to graze fresh pasture each day, called rotational grazing. "Moving animals, building fencing and watering systems, financially it's too risky to do it that way."
So Crush now has longer leases - at least five years - on two larger farms, one for cows and goats, another for pigs. Their home farm in Lovettsville is a third location used primarily for birthing or caring for injured animals.
Crush, as one might suspect, is humble about the challenges of farming. "Anything with agriculture, you've got Mother Nature working with you one day, the next day she's got you pinned against the wall," he said. "I enjoy a challenge, but it can be daunting at times. But that's pretty much any business."
Spring House Farm supplies whole animals to high-end restaurants throughout the region, but local residents can enjoy their naturally-raised, delicious products by participating in their CSA. The Spring CSA has already begun, but you can jump in any time and pay the pro-rated price for the remaining portion.
To learn more about Spring House Farm or sign up for the CSA, visit www.SpringHouse.farm and follow the farm on Facebook. If you are looking for employment opportunities including a summer job at the farm, email Andrew email@example.com.