Thursday, March 11, 2010

WeatherLea Farm

WeatherLea Farm traces its history back to the late 1700s. Like many old homes in Virginia, the WeatherLea farmhouse was constructed in parts. The log cabin was built first in 1794. Over time, additional rooms were added. Eventually the farmhouse became the lovely mélange of materials and building styles that it is today.

The farm is named for Yetive and Earle Weatherly, who lived on the land from 1950 until 1986. During that time, WeatherLea was a small and diverse subsistence farm. One piece of their diverse operation was running a cow dairy. The Weatherlys experienced a trend towards larger farms and more centralized processing during their 36 years on the farm. For instance, the milk trucks that collected WeatherLea’s milk went from hauling milk cans to much larger capacity milk tanks.

Current WeatherLea owners Pamela and Malcolm Baldwin are recent arrivals to farming. After retiring from their respective careers (Pamela was a Foreign Service Officer and Malcolm worked in environmental law), they settled into life at WeatherLea Farm, where they raise over 30 sheep, three llamas (to protect the flock), an acre of wine grapes, and hay. The Baldwins also host weddings and guests on the 28-acre farm. WeatherLea’s motto is: “Wool, wine, weddings, and weekends!” Pamela says, “I’m twice as busy as before I retired, but I’m having twice as much fun.”  

Pamela and Malcolm use to travel the globe for their work, spending time in countries as varied as Croatia, Sri Lanka, and New Zealand. Pamela says that they were inspired by the agritourism farms they toured while traveling, particularly the sheep farms, and wineries of New Zealand’s South Island. Although the Baldwins bought WeatherLea Farm in 1992, they continued to commute to DC until they retired in 2003. Since then, says Pamela, their world has gone from global to very local.


Pamela and Malcolm decided to raise sheep after visiting Loudoun County farms during the county’s annual farm tour. They were drawn in particular to the wool-producing sheep farms. The Baldwins decided to buy five Romney sheep in 2003, and their flock has since expanded to over 30 Romneys and Merinos, both bred for their fine wool. “Wool sheep,” says Pamela, “are also generally good for meat, although many meat sheep have poor wool.” The Baldwins send wool from their sheep to mills in New Jersey and Prince Edward Island to be woven into blankets. They also sell raw wool to Solitude, a wool farm and yarn-maker in Western Loudoun County. Solitude sells their artisan yarn at DC farmers markets, events, and festivals. Guests at WeatherLea weddings have used the yarn produced by Weatherlea’s sheep and spun by Solitude to make beautiful handmade wedding gifts.

This year, for the first time, WeatherLea Farm will be on Loudoun County’s Spring Farm Tour. The Loudoun Valley Sheep Producers’ Association will set up a wool shop in the barn, as well as spinning and weaving demonstrations.


After taking courses on grape growing and winemaking, the Baldwins planted their vineyard in 2005. They now grow 1200 vines of three French varieties: Malbec, Viogner, and Cabernet Sauvignon. According to a vineyard tradition, each row of grapevines is marked by a rosebush. The Baldwins make a little wine themselves – last year they bottled 12 cases -- and sell the remainder of their grape harvest to the award-winning North Gate Vineyard in nearby Purcellville.

In addition to grapes, Pamela and Malcolm also grow raspberries. And last year, they planted apple and peach trees that within a few years will bear fruit.


In 2007, Pamela and Malcolm’s daughter was married at the farm. A handful of friends and relatives were also married at WeatherLea. Guests told the Baldwins that the farm was a perfect place for a ceremony and celebration, and urged them to advertise WeatherLea as a great wedding site. Because of the property’s zoning as a farm, weddings are limited to ten a year, and they must be at least 14 days apart. In 2009, WeatherLea hosted six weddings. Pamela felt like that was just about the right number. Most weddings, she says, take place in May-June or September-October. Couples have three choices for outdoor ceremony sites: the south lawn with its Japanese gazebo, the vineyard with its Victorian gazebo, or the deck overlooking the farm’s picturesque pond. As an indoor alternative and reception site, WeatherLea’s red 1870s barn can hold up to 150 people. The barn is in remarkable condition, and is one of the few Civil War-era barns left in the county. Union soldiers burned most of the Loudoun County’s older barns during the war.           


The Baldwins just opened their lovely little “milk cottage” to overnight guests in 2010. Pamela says that hosting guests was a natural extension of their wedding business, and that couples often asked if they could stay on the farm before and after their wedding. The cottage is a converted milking parlor that sleeps up to four. Its one bedroom has a queen bed, and a sleeper sofa can accommodate two more guests in the living room. The cottage also has a kitchen, bath, laundry, HDTV, DVD player, and wi-fi. The cottage’s inviting living room has warm red walls decorated with paintings by the Baldwin’s daughter. Breakfast is provisioned in the cottage kitchen, with options like cereal, granola, yogurt, coffee, tea, juices, bagels, cream cheese, and fresh-baked muffins.

WeatherLea is well situated for visitors looking to explore the area. It is six miles from the Appalachian Trail, one mile from the C&O Canal, one mile from the Potomac River bridge to Maryland, and close to many Civil War historic sites. Loudoun County Civil War history is particularly interesting, as the county was sharply divided during the war. In Lovettesville, where WeatherLea is located, many Quaker residents voted against secession from the Union during a county vote in 1861. The Sanbower family, who lived at WeatherLea during that time, was in fact loyal to the Union.

The Future

In partnership with the Land Trust of Virginia, the Baldwins have placed WeatherLea under conservation easement. The conservation easement is permanently attached to the deed of the property, so the Baldwins as well as subsequent owners lose their rights to subdivide the land. As incentive to protect their land, property owners who place their land under conservation easement are given a federal tax deduction and state tax credits.

Both Pamela and Malcolm are deeply involved with local and regional organizations that work towards farmland preservation, vibrant rural economies, and environmental protection. Most of the traditional working farms in the area have disappeared under development, which is why it’s especially important to the Baldwins to preserve what they can.

If you go:

WeatherLea Farm & Vineyard
Pamela and Malcolm Baldwin
39595 WeatherLea Farm Lane
Lovettsville, VA 20180

The Milk Cottage sleeps up to four, with a full kitchen, bath, and provisioned breakfast. Children are welcome. Cost is $110-150/night, with a two-night minimum. The cottage is available year round.

Thanks to Pamela Baldwin for providing photos 1-4

1 comment:

  1. We just visited WeatherLea on the farm tour yesterday. You write a beautiful description of the place. The scenery is wonderful, the hosts are even more so.