Wolf Farm Natural Elements –A Marketplace For Local Farm Products in Abingdon, VA

By Danielle Bussone

 

Steve and Becky Wolf are living their dream. After working in management positions for over 20 years, raising their kids and putting them through college, the empty nesters decided they wanted to get out of the rat race and the stress that comes with it and finally do something for themselves.  “There is still stress, of course,” says Steve, “because you’re running a business and you’re worried about finances, but it isn’t the same kind of stress. These are things we are controlling, rather than having to get something done for someone else.”

 

Steve and Becky Wolf

 

So, they moved to Abingdon, VA in the fall of 2008 and by the next spring they were living on their own farm. Steve had been a manager for a door and window manufacturer, and Becky had been in management for Walmart. Now they have taken their business experience and have opened a retail store, Wolf Farm Natural Elements, carrying farming supplies, animal feeds, fertilizers, minerals, plants, seeds, and just about anything you need for your garden or small farm.

 

 

From a modest beginning, about a year and a half ago they began selling their supplies from from their garage/warehouse at their farm, and at the Abingdon Farmers Market on Saturdays and Tuesdays. The carried their supplies in a two wheel covered trailer and sold them from the parking lot in town. “I felt like a drug dealer,” recounts Steve with a laugh. “Customers would come to my space at the market and I’d say, ‘meet me at the parking lot.’ They’d give me money and I’d give them a bag of feed.”

 

 

Locally grown organic flower plants, herbs and vegetable starts, blueberry bushes, and planting supplies.

 

Wolf Farm Natural Elements sources its products as locally and sustainably as they possibly can. The Wolfs carry a variety of flower plants from an organic company, Blue Door owned by Tom and Deni Peterson, who also sell cut flowers at Abingdon Farmers Market. T & T Farms and Greenhouse, an organic operation owned by Tamara McNaughten, provides the Wolfs with blueberry bushes and vegetable starts. You can find Tamara on Saturdays at the farmers market in Abingdon as well with her array of food plants and freshly harvested organic vegetables.

 

 

 

Wolf Farm does carry an organic feed for horses, cows, chickens, sheep, rabbits, and so on. They also have another line that is an in-between line for some farmers. Its non-gmo certified. The seed is certified that it doesn’t contain genetically modified organisms but it may contain pesticides. It is an interim step for farmers who may eventually go organic but at present can’t spend the extra money for organic feeds that are significantly more expensive, $17.50 non-gmo vs $29.50 a bag for organic, a $12 difference in price. “New Country is starting to expand,” explains Steve. “They are putting in a new mill in Texas where they’ll be able to source more organic material down there and between the two plants they’ll have less freight costs.”

 

 

Richard Moyer of Moyer Farms provides organic seeds for Southern Seed Exchange out of Mineral, VA, which is where Wolf Farms Natural Elements sources all of their seeds. The Moyers also offer a wide variety of vegetables and mushrooms at the farmers market. Fingerling and seed potatoes are provided to Wolf Farm by New Sprouts Organic from Black Mountain, just outside Asheville, NC, and they get all of their feeds from New Country Organics of Waynesboro, VA.

 

 

 

 

 

The Wolfs carry a lot of quality tools, such as a Japanese digging tool. It has a cove to the blade so you can dig with it like a trowel, you can cut with it, harvest cabbage or lettuce heads with it, just an all round tool which comes in both stainless or tempered steel.

The other tools come from Yoeman and Company out of Iowa, also called Yo-Ho. Wolf Farm Natural Elements’ warehouse is packed with fertilizers, including all-purpose, specialty fertilizers with concentrated nitrogen, phosphorous or potassium, minerals to build up magnesium or calcium, lime, diatomaceous earth, kelp, all kinds of animal minerals, chicken scratch, worm castings, potting soil, seed starter mixes, trays, peat baskets, etc. “We try to have as much certified organic OMRI listed (Organic Materials Research Institute) products as possible, meaning they are acceptable products for use in organic farming practices.”

 

 

As well as quality products from responsible vendors, Steve and Becky produce some products of their own; soaps, body butters, natural hand sanitizers and a lavender mist that is wonderful for adding a non-toxic scent to towels and sheets.

Whatever your farm needs, do yourself a favor and visit Wolf Farm Natural Elements. You can support your local community by shopping at a market dedicated to supporting local organic businesses. This helps to expand an ever-widening web of interconnectedness that puts money back into our own community in a cycle that benefits everyone. This is a model I’m hoping will continue to expand.

Wolf Farm Natural Elements, located at 25245 Lee Highway, in Abingdon, VA opened on April 1 of this year and celebrated its grand opening on Earth Day.

 

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Family Convenience Store, Harrisburg, VA, Serves Up Ethiopian Cuisine Family Style!

    

By Danielle Bussone

 

Chef, Tirhas Negassi Woldebabr and Manager, Mehari. T. Ocbamichael, owners of Family Convenient Store

Chef, Tirhas Negassi Woldebabr and Manager, Mehari T. Ocbamichael, owners of Family Convenient Store

 

In one of the most unlikely places, we discovered a gem of an Ethiopian restaurant located in the recesses of a small family owned convenience store, appropriately name Family Convenience Store. The chef, Tirhas Negassi Woldebabr, was once the chef of a favorite Ethiopian restaurant in the same city, called The Blue Nile. We had reviewed The Blue Nile several years ago and were dismayed to learn that it had closed. What I remember best was how delicious the food was, especially the Ethiopian Peanut Soup served with an unforgettable bread, Ambashi, which is the national bread of Ethiopia, according to Tirhas’s husband and partner, Mehari. T. Ocbamichael. With overtones of honey, it was a perfect complement to the to-die-for peanut soup.

 

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Now, the couple has opened up the Family Convenience Store, and Tirhas is back, juggling batches of batter between three grills, efficiently making injera and ambasha breads for her customers. She also prepares a wonderful menu of Ethiopian stews, called Wot (pronounced What), served on the spongy sourdough injera flatbread for which Ethiopia is famous. She offers packages of fresh injera for sale in the store, as well as with the dinners she prepares for eat-in or take-out service. Their daughter, a newly graduated high-school student, helps out in the store when she’s needed.

 

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Mehari manages the Family Convenience Store, which offers all the standard items one can find at an American convenience store, but it also provides a range of Ethiopian goods, such as an assortment of spices, teff flour, and false banana root. I bought some of the false banana, though I’ve no idea what I’m going to do with it. I just couldn’t resist! You may wonder whether there is a demand for Ethiopian products in the area, but it seems there is. Harrisonburg boasts a thriving Ethiopian community of 400 families. It is no wonder a constant stream of native Ethiopians drifted in and out during our visit, picking up bundles of fresh injera for their families or filling the small tables in the back to enjoy a meal.

 

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Tirhas was kind enough to show us how she makes both injera and ambasha, which is almost unbelievable since Ethiopians tend to guard their injera recipes with their lives. Making injera is an art that takes time to master. Some people never get it right; Tirhas certainly does.

 

The quality of injera is measured by the size and number of little holes in the top, called "eyes." This gives injera its spongy texture. This injera is perfect.

The quality of injera is measured by the size and number of little holes in the top, called “eyes.” This gives injera its spongy texture. This injera is perfect.

 

But let’s get to the food. While there isn’t a huge variety of vegan fare, it is certainly enough to give you a filling taste of authentic Ethiopia with a good balance of nutrients. We ordered the Gomen (collard greens), Misir Wot (spicy red lentils), and the Diniche Alicha (potatoes, green beans, and carrots), which included a tasty salad of tomatoes, lettuce, onion and jalapeño peppers with a lemony dressing.  The injera is some of the best we’ve tasted anywhere. It was soft and pillowy, with a slight sourdough flavor.

 

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While we were speaking with Tirhas, we ran into Rick Yoder, who had popped in to let her know that he was bringing in a party of four later that evening. A former economics professor of Eastern Mennonite University, Yoder is now a Health Systems Consultant for low-income countries. Rick had once lived in Ethiopia and tells us that this convenience store/restaurant is a very typical venue there. He says he loves the food and attests to Family Convenience Store’s authentic flavors. What he particularly likes is that it hasn’t been Americanized like a lot of the Ethiopian restaurants he’s tried in this country. Not having visited Ethiopia ourselves, we can’t attest to that, but we can say this food is equal to or better than many of the Ethiopian restaurants we’ve visited and the injera, which is the heart of any Ethiopian meal, is among the best.

 

Former University Professor with

Rick Yoder loves the great Ethiopian cuisine at Family Convenience Store!

 

Do yourself a favor the next time you are tooling down I-81 South and are hankering for some good Ethiopian cuisine. Stop by Family Convenient Store and enjoy the best Ethiopian food within a 100-mile radius!

 

Links to Amazon.com are affiliate links. When you buy something through my links, Veggin’ Out and About! receives a small commission that helps support this site, which is greatly appreciated. It does not increase the cost of your purchase, and it helps us to continue to serve you. I post links only to products I use myself, have been highly recommended by a trusted source (which I will always disclose), or are very similar to my own products that are no longer available. Click on product to view link.

 


 

Tirhas swears by the Heritage grill. She has been using one of hers for twelve years and she has bought two more to keep up with her baking demands, making three injera in quick succession. She feels they are the best, especially for the price. You will need the lid, which is purchased separately. I, personally, have a Wass digital grill (mitad). You can get it at half the price listed on Amazon at almost any Ethiopian market, but you will no doubt pay a lot in shipping costs. I’ll add a link to that product below. I am happy with my purchase but have not had it long enough to verify its longevity.

 

  

Co-founder and editor of Veggin’ Out and About, Danielle writes restaurant reviews, profiles and interviews of people who are making a difference in the plant-based community. She is the author of, “Time For Change: Whole Foods For Whole Health,” released January 1, 2015.

Danielle’s region is SW Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina and anywhere she happens to stop for sustenance along the road. Contact Danielle directly to share your restaurant finds, to make comments or just to say hello.

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Barter Theater Costume Designers Create a Green Space That Feeds Body & Soul!

by Danielle Bussone

The Barter Theater, Abingdon, VA

The Barter Theater, Abingdon, VA

The closest thing to Broadway one can find outside of New York City, at least in the US, is the Barter Theater. The Barter, Virginia’s state theater, has put Abingdon on the map, making it a destination for tourists from around the world. One has only to attend a performance, any performance, to recognize the breadth of the talent that resides in this tiny corner of SW Virginia.

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Whole Health Natural Foods — Now Located Near The Virginia Creeper Trail!

by Laura Blankenship

 

Chris In Doorway

Chris, long-time employee of Whole Health Natural Foods, welcomes customers to the new store.

 

NEW LOOK, NEW LOCATION, SAME INTENTION

This June Whole Health Natural Foods store (aka Whole Health Center) opened at its brand new location in the heart of Abingdon.  Conveniently situated between I-81 exits 17 and 19, the new location is nestled between neighboring restaurant 128 Pecan—a fun, casual spot with some vegetarian dishes and a vegan option or two—and the trailhead of the beautiful Virginia Creeper Trail.

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Gaia Fresh Food Café in Carlisle, PA, Serves Up Veggies Galore!

by Danielle Bussone

 

A year ago, Rich and I passed through Carlisle en-route to Central New York for an annual Easter visit with relatives.  Carlisle has a dearth of restaurants offering healthy, plant-based options.  There is a Tappas bar which claims to offer vegan options but when questioned closely you’ll find the fingerling potatoes are fried in beef tallow, the croutons contain eggs and the olives are just taken from a jar and dunked in a pool of flavored olive oil.  The pita bread is obviously store bought. They will remove the cheese and other offending products but offer nothing to compensate the diner for the loss.  No thanks, we’ll pass.

There is an excellent Japanese/Vietnamese noodle shop (we reviewed last year) called Essei Noodles and there is a wonderful market (also reviewed last year), Appalachian Whole Foods.  So, last year, following our lunch at Essei, we  stopped to check out a lovely little vegetarian café on West Pomfret Street called Gaia Fresh Food Café.  We spoke with Gaia’s owner, George Catselis. We didn’t try the food at the time since we had already eaten. However, we did get a look at the place and an earful from George on his plans to make this a community meeting place where people who care what goes into their bodies and care about what is happening to our planet can congregate. A year later, and George’s plans are coming to fruition.

 

Gaia Exterior

Gaia Exterior

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Angkor Bistro’s Thai Yellow Curry With Mixed Vegetables

 
 
 

 
Ingredients:

1 tablespoon yellow curry paste

1/2  cup coconut milk

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons vegetarian fish sauce

2 cups mixed vegetables (in this demo she is using broccoli, carrots, boiled potato and onion)

1/2 cup fried tofu
 

Method:

Add oil to hot wok or skillet. Add yellow curry paste. Stir to combine.

Add coconut milk. Lower heat and stir to combine. Add vegetarian fish sauce and the sugar. Mix together until creamy.

Add fresh vegetables and tofu. Cook unit vegetables deepen in color. They should still have a little crunch when you bite into them.

Serve with brown or white rice.

 

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