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