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Between the two of them, farmers Christine Mann and Corey Hamza have experience farming in California, Oregon, and New Zealand, but it took moving to Franklin County to find a farm to call their own. This year, Rivenwood Gardens made their Grandin Village Farmers Market debut, and the couple have made Virginia home.
Initially, the pair looked for land on the West Coast, but it was too expensive (to say nothing of the challenges with irrigation). When they started researching creative lease partnerships, they found an opportunity on a 300-acre farm in Glade Hill.
In May 2020, during the height of the pandemic, Mann and Hamza moved from California to Glade Hill to start anew. Their 2.5-acre property, which consists of a patchwork of forest, pastures, and gardens bordered on three sides by the Pigg River, inspired their farm’s name.
“Riven is the root word of river. If you’ve ever heard of a riparian forest, or forests that are along rivers, Rivenwood was our take on the same meaning,” Hamza says. “Riven also means to split or bifurcate, so the splitting of river channels and tree branches is also kind of a meaning.”
They incorporated this notion into the logo, in which roots and tree branches echo the flow of the mountain river shed. “Symbolically, we really like the connection visually with the tree roots versus the river system, how they look very similar and how that is a really cool pattern in nature and connection between land and water,” Mann says. “We both come from ecological backgrounds, so we feel very strongly about looking at the bigger picture and taking into account how everything is interconnected.”
This year marks Rivenwood Garden’s second full growing season (for their first growing season, Mann and Hamza grew a small number of crops to wholesale to LEAP). Mann and Hamza grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to support the market offerings as well as their robust CSA offering, in which customers can fully customize their selection according to their preferences and what’s available each week.
Rivenwood Gardens is the only certified-organic farmer to sell at Grandin Village Farmers Market, which Christine notes sets them apart and seems to be something shoppers appreciate. The spring season harvest included cool season crops such as beets, carrots, greens, turnips, and radishes. The previous fall they planted a lot of garlic, so when that came up in the spring, they harvested it come summer. Summer’s bounty also included peppers, eggplant, corn, tomatoes, beans, and melons.
“It’s more fun for us too, to grow a lot of things,” Hamza says. “And the nice thing about having a CSA and selling at the farmers market is that people appreciate a variety, so it really pays to have it.”
Hamza and Mann say that they are grateful to be plugged into the LEAP community and for the opportunity to sell at the Grandin Village Farmers Market.
“It’s hard for any new business to come into an area and start from scratch,” Mann says. “As farmers our expertise is not marketing. It helps when LEAP is there to help us reach out and grow our customer base.”
Mann and Hamza have also started to grow their business within the Grandin Market Farmers Market vendor community. This year, Rivenwood Gardens is partnering with Gracious Day Grains to grow organic heirloom rye and spelt. Since grains require specialized equipment, owner Tom Maxey is lending them the necessary equipment and providing insight on best growing and harvesting practices.
“[The market has] been a great way to network and connect on a personal level and socialize with other farmers and similarly-minded, cool people that make and produce things,” Hamza says. “Moving forward, we’re looking forward to collaborating with other growers and producers on different projects.”