Holy Cross Abbey to Launch Sustainable Agriculture Initiative

Great Country Farms is launching its 19th season of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) with an expanded production capacity by partnering with Our Lady of the Holy Cross Abbey in Clarke County.

CSAs connect farmers with consumers who sign up for a share of produce at the beginning of the season and then receive their weekly bounty from June-October. Great Country Farms has added many unique aspects to their CSA program over the years including home or office delivery, a u-pick bonus share and on farm experiences with u-pick festivals included for members.

“As the buy-local trend gains momentum and Americans are seeking more ways to connect with their farmer and food sources, CSA and U-pick popularity is growing,” said farm co-owner, Kate Zurschmeide, “We are excited to expand our growing capacity at the Abbey which will help us expand our u-pick vegetables at our home location in Bluemont.”

Holy Cross will provide land for vegetable growth and while Great Country Farms will provide labor and agricultural expertise. The monks plan to initially dedicate 110 acres of the monastery’s 1,200 acres to vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes and squash, as well as perennials including raspberries and asparagus.

This partnership with the Abbey will not only expand the farm’s sustainable growing practices but is also intended to help sustain the Abbey’s way of life by attracting new vocations and revenue.

The monks of Holy Cross Abbey, located east of Berryville, on the Shenandoah River, view vegetable production as part of a plan to sustain and reinvent the monastery’s way of life. The Abbey is a Cistercian house (also called Trappist) and was founded in the 1950s on the 1,200-acre Cool Spring Farm. The abbey grew rapidly in it’s first 20 years and at its height, there were 60 monks residing in the historic 18th-century Wormeley house and additions.

“The monks at Holy Cross Abbey are most pleased to partner with Great Country Farms in Bluemont, Virginia, to provide naturally grown fruits and vegetables to our local community,” said Abbot Robert Barnes. “Mark and Kate Zurschmeide have shown repeatedly these past twenty years that they understand how to coax bountiful harvests from the soil by employing environmentally sound, land stewardship practices. Finding folks that share our love for the land here in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley was an important consideration in forming this partnership together, and we feel fortunate to have met so perfect a match for us, literally just ‘over the mountain’. As spring approaches, we look forward to supporting new products on our farm, and joining with Kate and Mark as we begin another chapter in the sixty year history of Holy Cross Abbey.”

Holy Cross Abbey mansion house - photo Edward Leonard

CSA sign-up for the 2012 season is open now. For additional information and details on CSA pricing and packaging please visit www.GreatCountryFarms.com. Our Lady of the Holy Cross Abbey can be reached on their new website www.virginiatrappists.org.


  1. Tammy Lanham says:

    Couldn’t have dreamed of a more perfect combination! Have known Mark and Kate for years ~ wonderful family)……and Holy Cross is a very special place (Dave even farmed at the monastery as a kid). Know your work together will be blessed:)

  2. Getting the cattle out of the river fields is an excellent development for the Monastary in terms of sustainability. Though we will miss the bulls, steer, and occasional calf/cow combo in the field next door, the Chesapeake Bay and the Shenandoah will be better off for it.

    Our hope for this project is that Great Country Farms will tread lightly in the river bottom and use as little pesticide as possible. Having gardened by the river for years, we can attest to the “healthy” insect population. The land is incredibly fertile.

    Good luck neighbors.

  3. Clarke Co Annie says:

    Discovered surprising information by visiting Holy Cross Abbey website.
    Didn’t know they offer a “Abbey Rest Natural Cemetery”.
    Checked maps-on-line but did not find the dedicated area. No takers yet?

    Monastery put their 1,200 acres in perpetual preservation easement in 2012.
    That should make the BOS and Natural resource planner happy.

    Sounds like good “share of land”.