With an average income of $119,000 per year, Loudoun County has many new, well-heeled communities, and Willowsford, with its custom homes, sweeping views, private places, and idealistic feel, is certainly one.
But, Willowsford – the Washington, D.C. area’s only farm-to-table community built as a farm-to-table community – is both trying and succeeding to do things differently: combining conservation, recreation, convenience, exclusivity, farming, and beautiful architecture into a unique, self-contained lifestyle. Roads are called “streetscapes” here. And, although that sounds like language invented by a master real estate marketer, there is something very special going on in Willowsford.
The development itself is located south of Leesburg and east of Rt. 15 – in the vicinity of Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve and the historic Oatlands Plantation. Under Loudoun’s comprehensive land-use plan, this part of the County is known as the Transition Policy Area, designed to be not as densely developed as the suburban east, but more developed than the rural west. The TPA includes important County natural areas – wetlands, creeks, forested ridges, and meadows – as well as working farms. And, it includes large new, modern homes, which vary from 2,300 to 6,000 sq. ft., carry the names of well-known builders, and cost between $500,000 and $1.2 million.
But, that – a new community with large, fairly expensive homes – is where traditional, upscale housing developments end, and Willowsford begins.
For this place has beauty built right into its design and functionality: a working farm that helps feed the people who live here, a 2,000-acre conservancy with walk-out-your-back-door recreational opportunities, four distinct villages that give residents an extra layer of lifestyle individuality, and community facilities and programs that make living here, so, well, whole and complete – including farm-food cooking classes, nature hikes, community gatherings, and more.
Willowsford is … the real thing.
The development’s 300-acre farm produces more than 100 varieties of vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers, and livestock. A CSA program – Community Supported Agriculture – supplies a farm market. A farm-garden demonstration area shows people what is being grown on the larger farm, and is also place for tours and pick-your-own berries. While not organic, the farm is managed to rebuild what many years of traditional agricultural use had taken away, encouraging beneficial insects, companion planting, nutrient recycling, soil conservation, and the like.
And, Willowsford, as a community, has quite the sense of adventure.
The farm raises chickens, for both meat and eggs. They are kept healthy and well protected in large, movable enclosures that allow the birds to forage on fresh grass while controlling the insect populations. It’s quite a sight.
Willowsford has, yes, goats, too – put to work as chemical-free grazers to help control weeds and invasive plants. Property owners can request to be a part of the goats-as-grazers program to help control vegetation on their land. As the community’s website says, “In addition to their weed-eating services, goats possess a keen ability to kick start conversations about conservation, engage students, and attract volunteers to projects and places they visit.”
Willowsford, then, is beauty and function spiced up with a little whimsy, a nice walk in the woods, a farm stand just down the “streetscape,” and weed-eating goats.
Willowsford is trying and succeeding to be different.