She prefers her Loudoun Made Loudoun Grown-branded ballcap, a Long Stone Farm version, or one supporting a fellow rural business in Loudoun County’s bustling economy, but one thing is certain: Casey Wisch wears a lot of hats.
Literally and figuratively.
Casey and her husband, Justin, run Long Stone Farm in Lovettsville, Va., along with their three kids, Piper, Boone and Timber, and there’s never a dull moment to spare. Her LinkedIn profile says “farming and momming full time,” but her past experience as a corporate project manager gets tested every day.
Pigs, cattle, goats, ducks and chickens require daily feeding and care that varies by season, breed and situation. Raising three kids (including one born last October) means that if her hands are free, she probably has a child strapped to her back.
Selling pork shares, pasture-raised chickens and cured meats on the Loudoun Made Loudoun Grown Marketplace actually constitutes a small portion of their overall business. They also:
- keep a rotation of products through their on-site farm store;
- sell to local restaurants, grocers, chefs, wineries and caterers all over the region;
- collaborate with other local farms on events and retail;
- open their farm up for groups to tour;
- are looking to open a second farm store location closer to Leesburg;
- have five farm dinners on the books for 2021;
- are renovating a farmhouse on the property to add a bed and breakfast experience.
That means that the farm’s butcher and processing dates are booked out to 2022. Summer events were booked for the barn that was under renovations through the spring.
While so much of their business can be deadline-driven, Casey and Justin have centered Long Stone Farm on quality, which means attention to detail.
“One of my passions out here is teaching people about our farm and what we do,” she said. “We’re a grass-based livestock operation. We follow a lot of regenerative farming practices and so I love sharing what we do and why it’s good for our soil and our land, and why having livestock out here on the farm is just the best.
“We started with asking ourselves, how can we do this without the use of chemicals? That all feeds into a more complex relationship where we’re talking about field health, plant health, animal health and then, ultimately, human health.
“It’s all tied together…there’s always purpose out here.”
COVID-19 and the Loudoun Made Loudoun Grown Marketplace
In many ways, Long Stone Farm hit its stride in 2019, including wholesale, retail and the first iterations of farm-to-fork events. In the early weeks of 2020, Casey got pregnant with the family’s third child and all signs were pointing up.
Then COVID-19 hit and the outside world shut down.
“We kind of had a huge shift last year when COVID hit because the restaurant industry pretty much shut down, so we had 60% of our business just disappear,” she said. “We had a pivot and kind of figure out how we were going to handle that.”
The Wisches were some of the earliest adopters of the Loudoun Made Loudoun Grown Marketplace, which proved effective for families looking to stock up on bulk meats. Especially when COVID-19 work stoppages interrupted national and global supply chains for meat, Long Stone Farm never ran out.
The on-site farm store, which runs on the honor system, also saw a huge boost in traffic, as people from all over the region embraced local producers and products. While great for their bottom line, that shift from wholesale to retail isn’t without complications.
“The challenge was trying to find like storage for that product that we had to then hold to sell through the store,” she explained. “Typically, we would process our animals and then they would take that meat directly from the butcher to the restaurant. There was no holding of that product. In the past, we would just buy used freezers because they’re a lot more cost-effective for us but those were nowhere to be found last year either. So we had to buy everything new, which had increased cost there.”
Loudoun’s COVID-19 Business Interruption Fund
To accommodate the business pivot, Long Stone Farm needed a new building for cold storage. When Loudoun County announced its COVID-19 Business Interruption Fund, Casey and Justin got a needed lifeline.
“There was a lot of investment on like an infrastructure level we had to make in order to make that change. The business interruption fund helped us do was buy another storage building, and then the freezers that went with that,” she said. “In order to outfit that whole space, just to produce and hold the meat, that’s where that money helped us.”
Coming out of COVID-19 protocols, Long Stone Farm has seen renewed relationships with restaurants, wineries and boutique grocers, which helps balance the business between wholesale and retail. Even if the farm store traffic is down from its pandemic highs, Long Stone Farm is better prepared for the needs of consumers and resilient to change.
PayPal Spotlights Long Stone Farm
One more thing that happened in 2020: the Wisches got national exposure in an ad campaign for PayPal, which spotlighted their use of QR codes to complete sales. At the height of the pandemic, 70-80% of all of their income was generated through the platform.