SINCE 2011, Michael and Kari Sponaugle have grown fresh produce. Expanding from 8 acres to 50 acres in 2020, the Sponaugle Family grows and manages an acre of you-pick strawberries, an acre each of sweet corn and potatoes and 17 acres of fall crops including Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, Cauliflower, summer and fall squash. In addition to managing the farm, they both work full-time off the farm – Kari serves as the Highland & Bath County 4-H Youth Development Agent and Michael works on his family’s cattle and poultry farm, which is adjacent to their produce farm. They rely on H2-A labor, part-time employees and family to care for their land. As their family is growing (they have two sons, aged 5 and 7), they’re looking into wholesale markets to consolidate sales and become more efficient with their labor force.
Kari and Michael are trained and certified in pesticide management and use a low or no-spray methods when treating plants. For the 2021 season, Church Hill Produce continued their Harmonized GAP certification through the cost share program with Local Food Hub, enabling them to continue to expand into new markets for their produce.
A natural spring provides the water for their farm, and they use cover crops in the off-season to protect and enrich their soil. Located west of the Shenandoah Valley where it is slightly cooler, they are about two weeks behind the Valley’s growing season, meaning they’ll continue to harvest after many other Virginia growers are done for one season and transitioning to the next.