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Back to the Land

Jennifer H. Jones of Swift Level

By Andrea B. Bond

Nestled in the gently rolling hills of the Greenbrier Valley, Swift Level’s peaceful setting belies the bustle of activity that has surrounded it for 200 years. The property that has served as stagecoach hub, cattle farm, riding stables and bed and breakfast lodging is now on its way to becoming a hands-on learning institution.

Jennifer H. “Tootie” Jones is well versed in the daily operations of Swift Level. She grew up on the farm her grandparents owned and she now runs the business, which is held in a family corporation. A proponent of sustainable living, Jones has spent years crafting a plan that would benefit West Virginians physically and emotionally as well as economically.  

“We are in the process of attempting purchase from the corporation so we can implement a greater vision of an educational foundation here for the future – to teach people how to grow and raise their own food, but also to pull together producers here and in the surrounding counties to assist them in finishing, retailing and marketing their products,” she said.

Jones represents a growing trend: The 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture reported a near 40 percent increase in farms owned by women.

“Women are very involved in the agricultural movement in this state,” she said, adding that she knows a number of women in Greenbrier and surrounding counties who own farms and are growing their own produce and livestock and selling it. “There’s no reason women can’t take on agriculture, which I think we already have. We just got categorized with the jams and jellies instead of calving out and lambing out, making maple syrup and all the other components.”

Farm was founded in 1788

'A place where people will be educated'

Beef is grass finished

WV farms grew by 14 percent

Agritourism a year-round business
In keeping with that force-of-nature spirit, Swift Level’s Angus cattle are grass-fed and free of antibiotics.

While the beef is not certified organic, Jones said, the farm strives to exceed organic standards – a practice that benefits the environment as well as the consumer.

Swift Level Farm beef dinner

"I’ve always believed in what people now call sustainable agriculture, but it’s really just how people used to do it,” said Jennifer H. "Tootie" Jones of Swift Level.

“West Virginia is lucky enough to be located in this amazingly lush region with fertile soil and tremendous rainfall, perfect for producing."