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Dion and Sharon Creekmore-Mosley Dion and Sharon Creekmore-Mosley Dion and Sharon Creekmore-Mosley are preparing her family homestead to grow fresh produce, just like it did when she was a child. (Photo by Kathy Van Mullekom)
2022 Jul

Women Who Farm

Meet local women who are growing food and flowers for your table.

Virginia Beach resident Sharon Creekmore-Mosley remembers when there were more farms on Indian River Road than vehicles on the road.

Her parents’ homestead at 2709 was one of those farms. There her family raised corn, string beans, squash, and tomatoes back in the 60s and 70s. Elsie and Linwood Creekmore were also part of the launch of the Virginia Beach Farmers’ Market in 1964.

Their house is gone, but the vision of vegetables thriving again on the land is very much alive in Sharon’s and her husband Dion’s plans—and especially in their hearts.

On a recent summer day, Sharon and Dion rode matching green tractors while swirls of dusty soil formed light clouds around them. After having cleared 600 trees that sprouted and matured over the years, the couple is preparing the family tract for their second farming and fresh-produce venture: Creekmore’s Place @ Indian River.

“We truly believe this is God’s will, and we feel so blessed to be able to farm like my parents,” Sharon said. “Dion and I lived here a few years after we married, and I’m so happy we are able to turn it back into the farm I knew and loved growing up.”

Sharon is not unusual in her quest to raise healthy foods for local residents. Statewide, female farmers are playing an increasingly important role in Virginia’s agricultural industry. They are involved with more than 23,000 farms of all sizes and crop types, and they are principal operators of approximately 16,000, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Lisa Ziegler Loves Sharing Her Passion with Others

Farming Flowers at the Gardener’s Workshop
Lisa Ziegler
Lisa Ziegler started flower farming on three acres in Newport News in 1998. (Photo courtesy Lisa Ziegler)

What started as a backyard flower-growing hobby for Lisa Ziegler in 1995 blossomed into a major local commercial venture. At its peak, the cut-flower farm, located on three acres in the midst of neighborhoods in the Denbigh area of Newport News, produced 10,000 to 15,000 stems weekly for 23 florists, two supermarket chains, and bouquet subscriptions, all across Hampton Roads.

Lisa started her venture with no farming experience, she recalled. “I began gardening as a pastime as an adult and found I just couldn’t get enough of it.”

For more than two decades, Lisa farmed and harvested zinnias, marigolds, sunflowers, cockscomb, snapdragons, and sweet peas—niche flowers that aren’t typically available because they don’t hold up well when shipped from South America.

“I have no hoop or greenhouse structures,” she said. “All production come from basically a supersized garden.”

Alongside the cut-flower business, Lisa also operated an online gardening component, The Gardener’s Workshop, that sold tools, seeds, and gardening supplies. Her two books, “Cool Flowers” and “Vegetables Love Flowers,” as well as a YouTube channel, live shopping show, and online courses on flower farming and other flower-based businesses can be found on her website.

Last year, Lisa, 61, decided she wanted to semi-retire. But the desire to inspire others to farm flowers on a large or small scale is still a major goal for Lisa. She continues to offer courses for budding farmers and also maintains a half-acre cutting garden used to create content for courses, books, how-to videos, and the online garden shop.

“There is something so deeply satisfying about growing flowers and sharing them with others,” said Lisa, who is quick to remind people that farming is hard work and tests your patience. “There will be more on your ‘chore list’ at the end of the workday than at the start. This is the nature of farming,” she explained. “Learn to manage it because if you don’t, it will manage every minute of your time.”

Kids and Teens Learn To Garden at Hope for Suffolk

And Gain Life Skills and Confidence
Ari Cheeks
This year, Ari Cheeks returns to the Hope for Suffolk farm as a team leader. (Photo courtesy Hope for Suffolk)

Ari Cheeks, 17, knows all about the tedious upkeep a small farm needs. She can weed with the best of them, and she knows farm customers like their produce clean.

It’s what she learned last summer growing green beans, okra, and eggplant as one of 40 paid interns with the Hope for Suffolk farming project. This year, Ari is back as the farm’s CSA manager and team leader.

“My involvement helped me learn to farm, and it also helped with my personal development,” Ari said. “I learned how to better handle conflict with myself and others, and I learned workplace readiness skills. It’s helped prepare me for better jobs and helped me become a more well-rounded person.”

That’s exactly the goal Hayden Blythe had in mind when she and her church, Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church, launched the farm project on its land in 2018. Hayden, who comes from a family of farmers, has a degree in community development and poverty alleviation and wanted to do something that allowed young people to get closer to their food sources and, at the same time, help with their personal development.

The interns work March through October. Along with gardening, they participate in Jobs for Life classes that teach how to write a resume, how to interview, and how to work through difficult situations—all general life skills that build confidence, Hayden added.

“I love what we are doing. It’s working great,” said Hayden, who has been contacted by organizations in other cities wanting to launch similar programs. “I love being connected to nature. It’s wonderful to see kids who have had no experience growing anything find a connection to nature, too, and really enjoy it. I think we are on to something.”

Creekmore’s Place at the Virginia Beach Farmer’s Market

Sharon Creekmore-Mosley Ensures Her Family’s Legacy Lives On
The team at Creekmore's Place
The team at Creekmore’s Place is excited to carry on their family legacy. (Photo courtesy Creekmore’s Place)

In 1964, Sharon’s father opened Creekmore’s Place at the Virginia Beach Farmers’ Market when it started on Diamond Springs Road. He stocked his store with his own produce, as well as harvests from fellow farmers.

When the Farmers’ Market moved to Dam Neck and Princess Anne Roads in 1976, Creekmore’s Place followed. Elsie ran the store until she died at age 98, having lived 30 years longer than her husband.

Sharon and Dion continue to run the store at the Virginia Beach Farmers’ Market, with the help of her two sisters, Patricia Lewis and Linda Johnson; her niece Nikecha Lewis-Dalton; as well as other family members who drop by from time to time to shell butter beans and chat. Both are in their late 50s and retired, Sharon as a school teacher and Dion from UPS.

This fall, Sharon plans to sell potted mums and hopefully decorative gourds and pumpkins grown at her new farm: Creekmore’s Place @ Indian River. For now, a 30x40 Quonset hut that will be the produce store and an 8x20 shipping container that will be transformed into a cooler are the site’s main structures. Crops are planned for next year.

Sharon loves the equipment they work with, including her mother’s 1990 Ford pickup truck and a 1964 tractor she gave Dion for Christmas. “I wanted a 1964 model because it’s the year my father started at the farmers’ market,” she said proudly.

Dion, who grew up on Newtown Road, worked on a nearby farm, doing everything from driving a tractor to harvesting crops such as collards and snap beans. “We aim to give people clean, healthy eating here,” Dion said. “We put everything back into the soil and garden as naturally as we can.”

“It will be all of us making this dream come true and continuing our family farming legacy,” Sharon added.

For more information:

  • Creekmore’s Place @ Indian River is located on Indian River Road, directly across the street from several neighborhoods, including Indian River Plantation and Courthouse Estates. For more information, find Creekmore’s Place on Facebook.
  • Find out more about upcoming classes and events at www.thegardenersworkshop.com, watch the Farm Cam from one of Lisa’s gardens on YouTube at youtube.com/TheGardenersWorkshop, and find her on social media. A six-week online farming and business school starts Nov. 1
  • Hope for Suffolk’s CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscriptions are $30 per bag of seasonal produce offered May through September. Subscriptions are available at hopeforsuffolk.org or 757-539-0540.
    Kathy Van Mullekom is a retired newspaper and magazine journalist, whose beats included gardening, women’s issues, restaurant trends, and fashion. Formerly a York County resident and master gardener, she now lives in Va. Beach.
Kathy Van Mullekom

Kathy Van Mullekom is a retired journalist, whose beats included gardening, women’s issues, restaurant trends, and fashion. Formerly a York County resident and master gardener, she now lives in southeastern Virginia Beach, where her leisure hours are spent golfing with husband Ken and exploring parks with her two grandkids, Mattie, 9, and Grady, 7.

Website: https://www.facebook.com/kathyhoganvanmullekom

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