Cave Hill Farm takes a new direction

The Valley Banner

MCGAHEYSVILLE – A 149-year-old barn has been turned into a venue for kids.

Walter and Lisa Hopkins have incorporated the barn on their 350-acre Cave Hill Farm into “agritainment” as part of a new pumpkin and sunflower growing operation.

Local farmer Mark Litchford, 58, organized the growing operations at 1001 Jacob Burner Rd., which opened the last week in September and closes for the season this week, although the farm will be open by appointment and for various seasonal activities until next September.

“It’s educational and fun,” Litchford said.

Cave Hill – which was a dairy farm for 56 years before closing seven years ago – attracted children for hay and barrel cart rides along with various farm-related activities, a barn slide and story time.

More than 600 children from local schools came to the farm over the past six weeks, Lisa Hopkins said. They ranged in age from 3 to 6.

“We’ve had a lot of special help with the pumpkin patch,” she said.

Mary Jo Halstead painted several farm-related items in the barn and Michele German helped with planning trips from local schools. “We’ve really enjoyed working with the children,” Halstead said.

Walter Hopkins agreed. “My greatest enjoyment thus far has been the smiling faces on the kids,” he said, noting children from Harrisonburg who had never been on a farm before.

There was plenty of learning going on at the farm, but it wasn’t just the children, he said, referring to the science and agronomy of growing pumpkins and sunflowers. He said there is a lot to learn about coordinating the growing seasons of the two crops.

Cave Hill also began growing hops, which Hopkins hopes to sell to local beer breweries, and has cows, horses, goats and pigs.

But the pumpkins were the main attraction. Twelve varieties were grown this year, which was a challenge because they are susceptible to a powdery mildew, Hopkins said. In addition, pumpkins need to be grown in a different soil plot from year to year.

He plans to increase pumpkin production next year and add a corn maze.

“We’re trying to fill a need and an interest in the community,” he said.

“Our long-term goal is to be able to keep the farm in the family for future generations,” Lisa said.

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