Agricultural all-stars: Loudoun Co. program puts farmers on trading cards

Eric Hilgartner, The Ag District and Locksley Farmstead Cheese Co. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
As with any trading card, each has vital info on the back. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
Beth Sastre, Loudoun Cooperative Extension Office (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
The back of Sastre’s trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
Dr. Mike Gast, Brookfield Farm (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
The back of Gast's trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun
The back of Gast’s trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development) (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
Donnie Ulmer, Milcreek Farm (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
 The back of Ulmer's trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
The back of Ulmer’s trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development) (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
Bonnie Kittrell, Double 8 Alpaca Ranch (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
The back of Kittrell's trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
The back of Kittrell’s trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development) (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
Erik Schlener, Root and Marrow Farm (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
The back of Schlener's trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
The back of Schlener’s trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development) (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
Sophia Maravell, Potomac Vegetable Farms (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
The back of Maravell's trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
The back of Maravell’s trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
Bill Bundy, Red Gate Farm (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
The back of Bundy's trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
The back of Bundy’s trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development) (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
Mike Smith, JK Community Farm (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
The back of Smith's trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
The back of Smith’s trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development) (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
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The back of Gast's trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun
 The back of Ulmer's trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
The back of Kittrell's trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
The back of Schlener's trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
The back of Maravell's trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
The back of Bundy's trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)
The back of Smith's trading card. (Courtesy Loudoun County Economic Development)

Just like baseball cards, trading cards featuring Loudoun County, Virginia farmers aim to inspire interest in another game altogether — agriculture.

Featuring “Sweet Potato Mike” to “Farmer Beth,” the trading card program — a partnership of Loudoun Economic Development and Loudoun County Public Schools — celebrates farmers and their hard work.

“This is our fourth year,” said Becky Domokos-Bays, Loudoun County’s director of school nutrition services. “I’ve been in this business 35 years. This is phenomenal. This is one of the best programs that we’ve ever done.”

During the unveiling of this year’s cards, one featured farmer — Eric Hilgartner of the Middleburg-based Locksley Farmstead Cheese Company — met students at Arcola Elementary in South Riding. He explained how to grow grass, raise cows, gather milk and make cheese, from soft spreadables, to hard aged cheeses like cheddar and gouda.

“The kids were so cute, and just super interested,” he said.

Their questions, which ranged from practical to downright silly, gave Hilgartner a sense that the children were beginning to form a picture of something foreign to them.

“A vast proportion of the kids never had any experience with a farm,” Hilgartner said. “To me, that’s almost unimaginable — that we’re that far removed from where our food comes from.”

Acknowledging the number of pressures there are on the industry, especially in this region, Hilgartner said he appreciates the chance to participate in a program that shares the importance of farming and farmers. He said he hopes visiting with the local “superstars” from the trading cards will inspire kids to go further and do more.

“We want them to take away just a piece of the passion that I have for working outside and working with animals and farming,” he said. “Not only appreciate what goes in their mouths, but maybe inspire a few to look into a career path and study hard and be involved.”

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