Keenbell Farm

Address: 18437 Vontay Road
Rockville, VA  23146

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Phone: (804) 767-0530
Categories: Farm

Keenbell Farm is owned by the Isbell family, and it is operated under the guidance of CJ Isbell, who has become a well-known advocate of sustainable farming practices in the state of Virginia. Foodwaze has visited their farm and you can read a full description under the Details tab. Here is an overview of the farm:

• Animals raised: Heritage breed Devon beef cattle, as well as pigs, meat chickens and egg chickens.

• Living Environment: Cattle are out in fields for their entire lives. The pigs and chickens also live primarily in pasture and are rotated with the other livestock.

• Animal Diets: Cattle are 100% grass-fed. The pigs and chickens forage in the pastures for grass, worms, bugs, etc. They’re supplemented with locally milled non-GMO grains.

• Grazing Methods: This farm takes the job of being stewards of the land to heart. They practice Management Intensive Grazing to ensure the animals are constantly moved to the best available grass and that healthy soil is built and maintained.

• Other Practices: There are NO chemicals, biosolids, hormones, or sub-therapeutic antibiotics used on the farm. Cattle are bred on the property and no animals are brought in from the outside to help ensure pure genetics. 

• Produce Grown: Food grade, non-GMO Specialty grains, including heritage varieties of soybean, wheat, corn, barley, and rye. Growing organic food-grade grains is not common in modern day Virginia, and Keenbell is helping bring them back.

• Chemical Use: No toxic chemicals.

• Sustainable Practices: Crops are rotated and fertilized naturally in harmony with the pastured livestock on the property.

Other things to know about this Place:

• The farm has been recognized and awarded for its sustainable practices, including environmental stewardship, the preservation of clean water, and soil management

• The farm is just west of Richmond, easily accessible off Interstate 64.

• In 2016, they opened a new farm store on their property. It's bigger and more functional than their original store. It's located in the original family home that Joe and Kathleen Isbell built when they moved to the farm in the 1950s. 

This listing was compiled using the following processes:

• A site visit, or visits

• Discussion with the owners, management, and/or staff

• Other research

Keenbell Farm is located just to the west of Richmond, Virginia. Established in 1951 by the Isbell family, it has been passed on through several generations. They produce 100% grass-fed beef, pastured pork, chicken and eggs, as well as specialty grains. Their property is 175 acres, and they farm an additional 175 acres all within five miles. 

The farm is recognized by experts in sustainable agriculture for its diversity and skilled rotation of livestock and vegetation, including both perennial and annual grains, legumes, and grasses. Through a site visit by Foodwaze in late Spring 2015 with CJ Isbell, we were able to learn first-hand of this family’s unyielding commitment to animal welfare, sustainability, and soil preservation. This commitment dates back to 2005, which is when the current generation of Isbells took over after several transitions at the farm, and began nurturing the land for the long-term future.  

CJ Isbell certainly has his eye on the future. With a young family of his own, it is indeed important to him. It’s only in talking directly to him that you sense his intelligence as well as his passion behind the farm’s commitment to the highest standards of animal husbandry.  It starts with their cattle breeding program. Through selective breeding, they are able to identify the best stock to suit the farm’s location, climate, and management techniques. They cross Black Angus with a pure-bred Devon bull, which is ideal for grass farming. They use Red Devons because they believe they are better suited for the South. 

Detailed charts and statistics are kept on the animals to ensure the best traits and qualities are being passed along. As CJ describes it, they are breeding with a focus not just on today’s market, but the several decades ahead.

The cattle are treated exactly the way nature intended. They wean naturally and they feed 100% on pasture, never receiving grain, silage, or animal products. Their pastures are never treated with chemicals. And of course, since the cattle are raised in a healthful manner, they are not treated with hormones, steroids, or routine antibiotics. 

Keenbell practices Management Intensive Grazing, which means keeping the herd in contained areas, rotating them, and allowing the grazed areas to rest and rejuvenate for long periods.

Since this is a polyculture farm, you will also see plenty of layer chickens being rotated in the pastures behind the cows, replicating the rhythms of nature. Egg mobiles allow them to roost at night and lay their eggs. Meat chickens arrive on the farm as day-old chicks from Moyer’s Chicks in Pennsylvania, are protected in a brooder for a few weeks, and then sent out on pasture.

Last but not least are the pigs, which are likewise raised on rotated pasture for the majority of their diet, under a watchful eye to be sure they don’t denude the land. To round out their diets, the chickens and pigs are supplemented with non-GMO grains from nearby Sunrise Farm. Keenbell used to grow its own supplement feed but now devotes its energy toward growing food-grade specialty grains, which are non-GMO, heritage varieties of soybean, wheat, corn, barley and rye. Through precise management, Keenbell rotates these grains along with seasonal grasses and perennials for livestock grazing. Keenbell’s commitment to growing healthier grains is paying off for other sustainable businesses in Virginia such as bakeries and breweries. 

Whether growing grains, or raising livestock, Keenbell Farm is genuinely dedicated to soil health, conservation, and the sustainability of their operation. Displayed proudly in their farm store are recent awards for environmental stewardship, the preservation of clean water, and soil management. Please click on the Places tab to connect to their farm stand listing, as well as other businesses that sell or use their products. 

Keenbell Farm products can be found at these Foodwaze verified locations:

Richmond, VA Little House Green Grocery Sub Rosa Bakery