Written by Kaitlin Hill
In September, Kenny Grandon took over the helm as Goodstone Inn’s new Wine Director. The Woodstock, Virginia, native and certified sommelier shares with Middleburg Life, in an exclusive online interview, what guests of the Hunt Country retreat can expect when they come looking for a good glass of wine.
When asked what brought him to Goodstone Inn, Grandon says it was, “the opportunity for growth and to expand my horizons” that really attracted him. He adds that he plans to “take on the already nice wine list and push it forward.”
Grandon comes to Goodstone after five years at the Inn at Little Washington, where he was the cellar master. In his new post he will manage wine needs for both The Bistro and The Conservatory and also hopes to “revitalize the retail wine program.”
Expanding on that, “I think it was started back in [the height] of COVID,” he says. “It gives guests the opportunity to email me their preferences of what they like, [so that] I can help them discover new wines in the range of what they would like to spend.” He finishes, “The guests have to come pick up the wines, so it’s a great reason to come to dinner as well!”
In addition to revamping the retail program, Grandon has his sights set on prestigious wine awards. “Right now, we have the second Wine Spectator award, but we are certainly pushing to get the Grand award of which there are only 97 in the entire world.” He adds, “That is my first goal. To do what I can to get that award.”
As for what types of wines he plans to bring to Goodstone, it will be a mix of vintages sourced from around the world and just around the corner. “I am going to have some old worlds because you have to have your French wines like Bordeaux and Burgundy. There will be some Italian and Spanish as well,” he says. “But I also certainly have a soft spot for Virginia.”
His partner, Melanie, is the winemaker at Cana Vineyards. “I have added some of her wines to the list and Boxwood as well.” He continues, “I’m excited to continue to expand the Virginia wine sections and use some in our upcoming tastings menus.”
Grandon is looking forward to the collaboration with the Goodstone kitchen staff as part of his new role. “Wine dinners will happen in the near future…I definitely plan to bring some winemakers in and do some fun dinners on the weekends. [That way] everyone can actually enjoy themselves. We can sell out The Conservatory and people won’t have to go to work the next day.”
More than wine dinners, his work with the kitchen is centered on a common goal. “We as a team are certainly pushing for Michelin recognition in the future. It’ll take all of us hard work to get there, but that is our goal. I’m looking forward to being a part of the process.”
As for personal goals he shares, “I plan to continue to study. Studying and reading to be continuously engrossed in wine.”
For those who cross Grandon’s path at Goodstone, they are in for a treat. Not only is he knowledgeable enough about wine to recommend the perfect bottle he says, “I’m a people pleaser. So, whatever I can do to bring a smile to someone’s face, to be a part of their experience, that has driven me for the past 16 years.”
This article first appeared online in November 2022.
Written by Will Thompson
For the past 10 years, the Middleburg Film Festival has celebrated the best of film, connecting the Hunt Country community with the visual arts as a major stop on the path to the national awards circuit. Since its inception, the festival has become home to world and regional premieres, established itself as a recognized and celebrated destination for the arts, and welcomed some of the world’s most talented actors, directors, and filmmaking professionals.
This October will mark the festival’s 10th anniversary and attendees can anticipate more of what they have come to love over the past decade. As the air begins to crisp and the trees burst with fall colors, downtown Middleburg will be transformed to a hub for film in an event that Town & Country called “one of the most interesting (and influential) on the road winding toward the Academy Awards.” The four-day festival will feature carefully curated selections of films with opening night events on Thursday and screenings throughout the day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The festival’s 10th-anniversary selections will include some of this year’s most buzz-worthy blockbusters, powerful independent films, and captivating documentaries. The 2021 festival boasted 42 Oscar nominations among its selections including Best Picture nominee “Belfast,” Best Actress contender Olivia Coleman from “The Lost Daughter,” and Best Documentary Feature “Flee” — a record that organizers have set out to beat during the 10th anniversary.
Complementing the many films, the festival will also feature Q&A sessions and conversations with many of its previous special guests – a list that has included names such as Kenneth Branagh, Dakota Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Emma Stone, and Viggo Mortensen – as well as artists who are new to the festival.
Attendees can expect to hear from the movie stars, visionaries, and artists who bring storied passion, humor, and drama to life on the silver screen during intimate “Fireside Chats” at festival venues, “Wine & Conversation” events at local vineyards and breweries, farm-to-table dinners, and parties that promise to mix some of Hollywood’s brightest stars with local festival patrons. Among the festival’s out-of-town attendees will be many composer and songwriter honorees who are coming together for a once-in-a-lifetime concert featuring selections of their most memorable work.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to be celebrating our 10th anniversary,” says Susan Koch, the festival’s executive director. “When Sheila Johnson founded the festival in 2013, it was with the mission to use the power of film to inspire, educate and engage our community and through this, increase our understanding of the world and one another – and our mission hasn’t changed since then. I think what makes the festival special is not only the quality of the films and conversations, but the sense of community that’s created.”
“We’re also committed to showcasing diverse voices and perspectives from all over the world,” Koch adds.
To prepare for the festival, the Town of Middleburg is planning a 10-day lead up to the event beginning on Monday, October 3 at Salamander Resort & Spa and ending on October 12 with a block party at Old Ox Brewery. “We’re very appreciative of all those who helped us along the way including our Board of Directors, Film Advisory Board, sponsors, the film community, and of course, the Town of Middleburg,” Koch says.
The 2022 festival promises to bring the red carpet experience to Middleburg while giving Hunt Country community members the opportunity to be educated, inspired, and entertained by some of this year’s most powerful films and talented filmmakers.
The festival is scheduled for October 13 to 16 at venues in and around downtown Middleburg. Advance festival passes and individual tickets are on sale now on the festival’s website, middleburgfilm.org. ML
This article first appeared in the October 2022 issue.
With the cool autumn air comes a desire to embrace the season and gather with friends and family at one of the many vineyards or wineries throughout the Virginia wine region. Luckily, no matter what vintage or grape varietals you prefer, there’s something for everyone in Hunt Country.
We’ve rounded up local wineries and vineyards that are ripe for the picking to consider adding to your fall bucket list or upcoming wine tour.
Three Creeks Winery
18548 Harmony Church Road
Hamilton, VA 20158
For a hidden gem just minutes from Leesburg, wine devotees should not overlook Three Creeks Winery on Harmony Church Road. Owners P.J. and John Lawrence are known for their hospitality and love getting to know their patrons, making it feel like a truly intimate experience.
The adult-only winery offers vineyard views with outdoor seating in a serene setting. Grab a glass and have a seat near one of the creeks or head into the barn for a tasting to enjoy European-style wines in French varietals grown in Virginia’s soil.
The winery offers six reds and four whites as well as a rosé made with grapes from a selection of Virginia vineyards. Two of the reds include grapes from the state of Washington and Northern California. The 2019 Sur-Lie Viognier, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sur-Lie Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Melange Rouge all received silver medals at the 2022 Governor’s Cup competition.
19600 Lincoln Road
Purcellville, VA 20132
Endhardt Vineyards is situated on 46 acres of idyllic rolling hills with 11 acres of vines. Located a few miles outside the village of Lincoln near Purcellville, owner Johannes (known as “Hannes”) Endhardt, and his wife, Sarah, opened the winery in 2021. “We are focused on creating memorable, high-quality Virginia wines while providing an incredible atmosphere to connect with family and friends,” Hannes says.
Guests will enjoy the beautiful vista overlooking grape vines while sampling their wine selection. Hannes recommends a stainless steel 2021 Chardonnay that is finished on some very light oak. Another popular choice is the 2019 Bordeaux blend that has 50 percent Merlot, 25 percent Cab Franc and 25 percent Petit Verdot resulting in “beautiful notes of red currant and dark cherry with a light pepper finish.”
Hope Flower Farm and Winery
40905 Stumptown Road
Waterford, VA 20197
Picture meandering around a flower field bursting with color as you enjoy a house-made wine or cider. You can make this experience come to life with a visit to Hope Flower Farm and Winery!
October marks the height of dahlia season at Hope Flower Farm in Waterford — the perfect occasion to snip flowers and sip one of the farm’s seasonal drinks. The “cut your own” flowers at Hope’s harvest fields make it a sought-out destination for picnics, photo shoots, and outdoor gatherings. Guests can walk around the farm and see the gardens, the animals, and enjoy being surrounded by the floral beauty.
The farm features flower-inspired wines from around the world including a seasonally driven fall wine selection. In addition to wines, the farm also makes ciders including the “Jack Cat,” which is a hard apple cider with hints of hops. The newest addition to the menu is the farm’s Strawberry Lavender drink.
Purchased by Holly and Evan Chapple in July 2015, this historic 25-acre estate was the beginning of an exciting new chapter for Holly’s successful floral and event business, Holly Heider Chapple Flowers.
Holly was able to expand from her home-based studio of 23 years to the rural retreat that now serves as a gathering place to teach and mentor fellow floral designers.
The estate, once a working dairy farm, is named in honor of the Hope family that farmed the land for over 60 years. The farm includes a stone Quaker house built in 1820, three barns, a guesthouse, and a smaller barn which serves as a studio.
Already known as a playground for floral design, Hope Flower Farm is gaining a well deserved reputation as a social spot for a glass of vino in a field of flowers.
Bluemont Station Brewery & Winery
18301 Whitehall Estate Lane
Bluemont, VA 20135
For a total crowd-pleaser, set your sights on Bluemont Station Brewery & Winery, located at Whitehall Estate. Towering 100-year-old trees offer shade and tranquility on this 50-acre countryside escape. Their slogan, “Come together and visit often,” accurately captures the ambiance of this Loudoun newcomer. In addition to pours of your choice, guests have the opportunity to sample a wide variety of dining options.
The property, a combination of rustic charm and southern elegance, has been owned by David Weinschel and Doug Armstrong since 1993. Previously Whitehall Estate, it served solely as a wedding and events venue until March when it was transformed into a brewery and winery. “Being a wedding venue for years, people would come out, they would enjoy this beautiful property and then we’d never see them again,” says Doug, who is enthusiastic about the new operation. They’ve been growing Cabernet Franc grapes on the property for 10 years, in preparation.
The name “Bluemont Station” is a nod to Bluemont’s rail line past. The line went right across the front of the property, connecting Washington, D.C’s social elite to a mountain “cool air” retreat. While visiting Bluemont Station Brewery & Winery, guests can check out a vintage 1926 train caboose that has been restored and is now a centerpiece of the facility and its brand.
October One Vineyard
7 Loudoun Street SW
Leesburg, VA 20175
Recently added to the Leesburg scene is a wine tasting room called One October, or O1V. The owners, Bob and Loree Rupy, opened the shop in August after years of experience growing grapes and making wine at their vineyard. In 2013, they planted their first grapes for the brand on their 30-acre Bluemont property. At first, the Rupys sold locally at farmers markets and events before expanding to the Leesburg brick-and-mortar facility.
One October is open Wednesday through Sunday. O1V wines include a Viognier, Albariño, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. Guests can either enjoy a flight or a glass on the outside patio or inside for a modernized, aesthetically pleasing atmosphere.
Eagle Tree Farm Vineyards
15100 Harrison Hill Lane
Leesburg, VA 20176
Venture off Highway 15 and take the gravel road less traveled to Eagle Tree Farm Vineyards which occupies a beautiful slice of rural Virginia. The family-owned, chef-driven winery and full-service restaurant sells estate-grown and vinified wines for your enjoyment.
Eagle Tree is known for blueberry picking in the spring, but to wine enthusiasts and foodies, the place is much more. The picturesque grounds feature an outdoor pavilion with a wood-fired oven for pizzas and a nature trail. The property is open during the weekend and weekday evenings and is also family friendly.
Lori McKeever and Head Chef, Jeff Judge, are co-owners of the restaurant and vineyard. The restaurant is open year-round. With Chardonnay, Viognier, Cab Franc, Talon, and Tannat, there’s something for everyone in your party. ML
This article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue.
Early on a summer morning, the Groupe family can be found relaxing on the back porch of their home in the Creighton Farms community, overlooking the golf course as they enjoy coffee and breakfast in the sunshine. Katie and Johnny Groupe have lived with their three children in Creighton Farms for the last two years in an atmosphere that Katie Groupe describes as “almost resort living without being at a resort.” Creighton Farms is a gated club community nestled in the rolling hills of horse country just outside of Aldie with abundant amenities including golf courses, tennis and pickleball courts, a pool, a social club, and year-round events and activities for children and adults alike.
“People see Creighton when they see the gates and they think it’s stuffy, and it couldn’t be farther from that,” Katie says. “It’s really laid back and enjoyable and stress free.” The Groupes were attracted to the slower country lifestyle in Loudoun County after living in Old Town, Alexandria. “When you’re in the city, it’s such a different mindset… from being in an urban environment to being out here where you can see the mountains and the rolling fields. And, I was always drawn to the Middleburg area,” Katie notes. “The view, the horse country, it’s just so peaceful to me, and also Johnny as well.”
Johnny, who is originally from the Northern Virginia area and runs a civil engineering company, is a long-time golfer and was drawn to the golf program at Creighton Farms. “I never knew about the [golf] community in Loudoun County so it was a pretty easy decision for us once we got to meet the members and our friends that we have now,” he says. He highlighted the golf tournament opportunities for adult and junior players, including charity tournaments.
As parents of three young children, Katie and Johnny Groupe appreciate the safety of the community and the youth opportunities that are offered by Creighton Farms. Katie grew up in a similar community in Augusta, Georgia, and wanted the same environment for her family. “I know what it feels like to grow up in a community where you just feel safe, where you ride your golf carts around and meet your friends and ride your bikes everywhere. It’s just wonderful, so it felt like coming home when we started building here,” Katie remembers.
Creighton Farms hosts plenty of events and activities for families including summer camps, holiday parades, and even weekly movie nights on Friday evenings. “You drop the kids downstairs and they show a movie while the adults can have a nice dinner upstairs and enjoy two hours for ourselves which is kind of like a little built-in babysitter,” Johnny says.
The Groupe’s children attend Loudoun Country Day School where Katie is an active member of the school board, but during the summer they have made the most of Creighton’s golf camps and visiting the club’s pool. Additionally, the club offers fine dining with weekend specials and plenty of family-friendly options. Katie recalls a time when she requested lemon pepper chicken fingers although they were not a listed menu option. “The chef [whipped] up his own lemon pepper seasoning. It was just wonderful. [It] makes you feel special.”
While all lots in Creighton Farms come with a club membership offer attached, it is optional, but most residents accept and embrace the social opportunities of the sports and activities. “I’d say 95% of the residents are members, so you get to know your neighbors very well,” Johnny explains.
Katie says that the family has everything they need within the gates of the community or just a short drive away. “Living in here, we always laugh, we really don’t want to leave the gate,” she says. “It’s wholesome.”
The Groupes appreciate the relaxation and fun of Creighton Farms and encourage others to come experience it. “When the right lot and the right builder and the right house all came together, we jumped on the opportunity. We couldn’t see being anywhere else,” Johnny says. ML
This article first appeared in the September 2022 Issue.
For Immediate Release:
September 22, 2022
The Byrne Gallery
The Byrne Gallery in Middleburg, Virginia, is proud to present Shades of Autumn, the latest series of plein air landscape and garden oil paintings by noted Virginia painter, Robert Thoren. This new exhibition for the month of October features impressionistic views that showcase the beauty of the Virginia countryside as well as scenes from Italy and France. Goose Creek and the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains are both represented in the splendor of the autumn season with color and majesty. The exhibition will be on display from October 5th – 30th, 2022. There will be a reception for the artist on Saturday, October 8th from 4:00 – 7:00, and a gallery talk on Saturday, October 15th, from 2:00-4:00. Drinks and refreshments will be provided. Both events and the exhibition are open to the public and all are invited to attend.
Robert Thoren is an avid proponent and practitioner of plein air painting. He has relished the opportunity to paint the Northern Virginia landscape, particularly the lush terrain of the Shenandoah Valley. Before moving to Virginia in 1993, Robert studied with teachers closely associated with the late Russian emigre impressionist Sergei Bongart. Mr. Bongart’s work was often featured in exhibitions at the Frye Gallery in Seattle along with other noted artists and fellow emigres Nicolai Fechin and Leon Gaspard.
Like Sergei Bongart, Robert Thoren paints in a sensual, impressionistic style emphasizing vivid color and employ fresh dramatic brushstrokes. His artistic goal is to suggest spontaneity while maintaining a firm mastery of drawing and painting techniques. In his many still lifes, Robert celebrates the Bongart school’s focus upon color and its ability to transform everyday objects into scenes of powerful emotion. Robert teaches both oil and acrylic landscape and still life painting through the Fairfax County Parks Authority. He is an active member of the Washington Society of Landscape Painters.
The Byrne Gallery is located at 7 West Washington Street in Middleburg, Virginia. Gallery hours are Monday and Tuesday by appointment only, Wednesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Contact the Byrne Gallery for more information by phone at (540) 687-6986, by email at [email protected], or online at thebyrnegallery.com.
Middleburg, VA, September 22, 2022The Middleburg Film Festival announced today a first
round of programming for its 10th year, which is returning with a selection of film screenings,
conversations and events October 13-16. Launching the four-day festival is WHITE, NOISE
from Academy Award-nominated writer/director Noah Baumbach. Based on Don DeLillo’s
novel of the same name, the black comedy stars Adam Driver as a renowned professor of Hitler
studies who along with his wife (Greta Gerwig) and children face an “airborne toxic event”
hanging over their town that threatens everyone’s lives. Don Cheadle, Jodie Turner-Smith, Sam
Nivola and Raffey Cassidy also star. Baumbach will be returning to MFF to accept the 10th
Anniversary Spotlight Filmmaker Award – he attended in 2019 with his Oscar nominated film
GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY will screen on Friday, October 14 as the
Friday Centerpiece Film and will include a discussion with writer/director Ran Johnson where
he will receive the Distinguished Screenwriter Award. Additionally, Johnson and his film
editor Bob Ducsay will be presented with the inaugural Variety Creative Collaborators
Award and participate in a separate conversation that will not only focus on their current film
but take a look back at their previous collaborations including “Looper,” “Star Wars: The Last
Jedi,” and “Knives Out.” In “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” Daniel Craig returns as
detective Benoit Blanc who time travels to Greece to uncover a fresh mystery involving a new
cast of colorful suspects. Joining Craig are Edward Norton, Janelle Monae, Dave Bautista,
Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Kate Hudson, Jessica Henwick and Madelyn Cline.
Screening as the festival’s Saturday Centerpiece film is Ray Romano’s directorial debut
SOMEWHERE IN QUEENS which he also wrote and stars in. The family dramedy and love
letter to New York’s largest borough is produced by MFF Advisory Board members Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa (“Nebraska,” “Little Miss Sunshine”) who will join Romano at the
festival to discuss their film following the evening screening on Saturday, October 15. Co-
written by Mark Stegemann, the film features an ensemble cast that also includes Laurie Metcalf,
Jacob Ward, Tony Lo Bianco, Sadie Stanley, Sebastian Maniscalco, and Jennifer Esposito.
The Friday Spotlight Film is THE WHALE, directed by Darren Aronofsky and based on
Samuel D. Hunter’s acclaimed stage play of the same name from which he adapted the
screenplay. Brendan Fraser turns out a remarkable performance as a reclusive English teacher
living with severe obesity who attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter for one
last chance at redemption. The film also stars Hong Chau, Sadie Sink, Ty Simpkins and
Samantha Morton. Fraser and Hunter will be on hand for a post screening conversation to discuss
MFF will recognize Stephanie Hu with the Rising Star Award for her breakthrough
performance in EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE opposite Michelle Yeoh.
She will participate in a conversation following a special screening of the film after which she
will be presented with the award. The box office hit film broke records by becoming A24’s first
film to surpass the $100 million benchmark
“We’re honored to be joined by so many artists and filmmakers, both new and returning, who are
coming to Middleburg to share their work with us as we celebrate our 10th year,” said MFF
Executive Director Susan Koch
Saturday afternoon will see the return of many of MFF’s previous Distinguished Composer and
Songwriter honorees who will each have a selection of their works performed by a 40-piece
orchestra. Joining the 10th Anniversary Concert celebration are songwriter Diane Warren,
composers Mark Isham, Marco Beltrami, Kris Bowers, Charles Fox and the 2022
Distinguished Composer Award recipient Michael Abels. Abels is known for his genre
defying scores for Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” “Us” and this year’s “Nope.” He also composed the
upcoming LA Opera production Omar,” which is premiering October 22.
“Showcasing film music has been a signature event of our festival from the beginning. We’re
thrilled to celebrate our festival’s 10th year by bringing so many world renowned composers
back for an anniversary concert – and to also welcome this year’s talented composer honoree,
Michael Abels” said MFF Founder and Board Chair Sheila C. Johnson.
Festival ticket packages and passes are currently for sale at www.middleburgfilm.org, and
individual tickets will go on sale in early October.
The Coca-Cola Company returns as the Festival’s Presenting Sponsor. The Washington Post is
the Founding Media Sponsor.
Written by Kaitlin Hill
Photos by Michael Butcher
“The whole idea was to make it for the community,” shares Cindy Thompson, owner of the aptly named Community Shop on S. Madison Street. Thompson, a practicing surgeon, opened the part-consignment, part-thrift shop at the end of 2019, as an escape from her day job and a way to give to local charities. For patrons, the stocked shelves and purposefully cluttered corners are a mesmerizing treasure hunt with a little bit of everything for everyone, making it well worth a visit.
Thompson, an Ohio native, came to Middleburg for the same reason as many who settle here – horses. “I was always a horse lover,” shares Thompson. “My mother sent me to a YMCA camp where I learned to ride. It was Western.” While earning her undergraduate degree, she learned to ride English, and in medical school at the Medical College of Ohio, she was introduced to foxhunting.
A desire to blend jumping and riding cross-country, a college friend, and her Irish heritage all culminated in a foxhunting trip abroad. She says, “I had this girlfriend in college who rode horses…and we’d go through this catalog of horse vacations. [The catalog] had foxhunting in Ireland and so I’m like ‘bingo.’” Though the college friend missed the trip, Thompson met plenty of like-minded equestrian enthusiasts, including her future husband.
“There was this really attractive guy at the bar, but he was with a girl,” Thompson explains. Thinking that particular romantic avenue was unavailable, Thompson instead made friends with a different Englishman she met the same trip. She says, “This English guy and I became friends, and we went foxhunting together. I didn’t know anything, I didn’t have the right clothes, and he lent me his shirt, his vest, his stock tie, everything.”
Having forged a new friendship in the field, Thompson would visit her English pal three months later for another foxhunting excursion. She shares, “I went to England to visit my friend…and we go foxhunting down in the West Country.” She continues, “I came home…and the English guy calls me up and says, ‘Remember that guy from the bar in Ireland? He called me and wants your number.’”
The couple connected, unsurprisingly, over their love of foxhunting. “He said, ‘If you want to foxhunt, you have to live where it is.’ So, he sent me the yellow pages of Northern Virginia and on a map, he circled Leesburg, Winchester, and Warrenton,” Thompson remembers. Thompson relocated from Ohio to Warrenton where she landed a job as a general surgery specialist. The couple married in 2001, and she joined her husband in Middleburg where they still live with their family.
Though still a practicing surgeon in Warrenton, Thompson jumped at the chance to open the Community Shop when the retail space became available. She says, “I was going to do it when I retired…but then the space opened up and there was this opportunity.”
She adds, “It’s just fun to have a shop, but I wanted to figure out how to accommodate the community.” The Community Shop invites both consignment and donation, and it is up to the patron to choose which they pursue. “You can bring your stuff in, and you don’t have to decide one way or the other. You could have some things you want to consign and the rest you want to donate.”
As for what Thompson accepts for resale, “Whatever I think is good quality.” She adds, “It doesn’t necessarily have to be old; it could be new. It just has to be good quality, interesting, or unusual.” For Thompson, interesting and unusual could come in the form of artwork, clothing, jewelry, glassware, home accents, holiday décor, and even pet collars and catnip.
Whatever it is, once sold she turns over a portion of the profits to local charities. “Middleburg Humane is our big one. But there is a horse rescue, a cat rescue…I have a couple churches, Potters House in the Plains. It really could be anything, as long as it’s local.”
While Thompson’s work certainly benefits the community, it is also of benefit to her. She considers her days at the shop as “time off” and insists, “Why do something if it is not fun?” When asked what she likes most about running the shop, she offers a long list. “I like all of it,” she laughs. “I like talking to people when they come in, seeing what they bring in. It’s always exciting and a surprise to see what people bring and what people buy.” She adds, “I definitely like hunting for the stuff. It’s exciting to find something and see what you can sell it for. It’s like treasure hunting.”
A sign in the front window indicates with a smiley face that the store is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday “based on volunteer availability.” Thompson hopes to expand on those hours and the shop’s offerings when she retires from her post as a surgeon. She says, “I keep thinking when I retire, I’ll have a little more time. I’d like to add an online aspect.” When open, the Community Shop is certainly a must-visit. Stop by to browse Thompson’s impressive collection of “a little bit of everything,” make a donation, consign an item, or simply share a chat with this lovely Middleburg neighbor.
This article first appeared in the September 2022 Issue.
“The plan is Catoctins tomorrow. I do not have high hopes even though a colleague saw 25 at my focal den in [redacted] on Wednesday when I was at a South Mtn, Pennsylvania site and got skunked…Forecast is for upper 30s tonight and I think it may push those Catoctin snakes under. However, if I don’t get out there it is just idle speculation. Having seen over 20,000 rattlesnakes plus about 1000 litters, figuring out exactly what is going on is more important to me than seeing a pile of rattlesnakes.”— An excerpt from Marty Martin’s email to me and other field-ready friends on October 8, 2020
William Henry “Marty” Martin III was known as the world’s authority on Timber Rattlesnakes—a species of pit viper native to mountainous areas throughout the east coast and as far west as Texas. He unexpectedly passed away on August 3, surrounded by his wife and daughters, after receiving a bite from one of his captive rattlesnakes.
Born in Leesburg, VA on December 24, 1941, Martin discovered den sites, studied behavior, and monitored the populations of these often-vilified creatures with dogged consistency for decades. At 80 years old, he was still pursuing his research with an eye to the species’ future, documenting the impacts of habitat loss, climate change, and other human pressures on his study populations while trying to instill a love for venomous snakes in the next generation.
“Marty was a guest educator for our Herpetology camps for the past 23 years and inspired countless budding herpetologists,” says Michael Kieffer, the longtime Executive Director of the Bull Run Mountains Conservancy. “While his research firmly establishes his legacy as a conservationist for Timber Rattlesnakes in the Eastern U.S., his work with kids will have lasting benefits, inspiring conservationists of the future. He was a dear friend.”
Martin’s own journey as a naturalist began as a young boy; by the age of 13, he had already made his first mark on the scientific community, proving the existence of a Timber Rattlesnake population in the Bull Run Mountains. At 17, he was a founding member of the Virginia Herpetological Society. He put his scientific career on hold to join the military, fighting for his country in the Vietnam War as a paratrooper for the Army’s 101st Airborne Division and for his armed service division as a bantamweight boxer.But when this chapter in his life ended, Martin returned to study snakes—and he never stopped.
He received his biology degree from the University of South Florida before traveling the world to conduct independent research on venomous snakes in Africa and South America. His travels would become fodder for conversation later in life, and those who spent time in the field with Martin were treated to storybook-style tales—escaping a Colombian prison by traveling on foot through the rainforest to Ecuador, escaping the epicenter of the first Ebola outbreak in the dead of night, witnessing the start of a civil war in Somalia, narrowly avoiding a deadly plane crash, bringing Australian TV host Steve Irwin to one of his Shenandoah den sites for an episode of “The Crocodile Hunter,” receiving his first and second rattlesnake bites—the list goes on.
While the spirit of adventure and his passion for all venomous snakes took Martin around the world, it was his hometown habitat that comprised the bulk of his life’s work and made him known throughout the herpetological community as a leading expert on Timber Rattlesnakes. “A human of mythic proportions,” writes Joe Villari, Preserve Manager at VOF’s Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve, in his touching personal tribute to Martin. “His love for snakes connected him with humanity, and he connected so many of us to the beauty and joy of rattle snakes.”
Martin continued to work independently, preferring his own strictly field-based research methods to a life in academia, and spent more than four decades visiting the same den sites over, and over, and over again. He learned to predict how weather patterns could influence snake behavior. He saw den sites diminish and ultimately disappear due to human disturbance. And he saw how climate change was altering even the most reliable den locations.
Much of Martin’s knowledge has been published; he contributed to rattlesnake conservation as a member of the Timber Rattlesnake task force for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature for 30 years, and in 2021, Martin co-authored the 475-page book, “The Timber Rattlesnake: Life History, Distribution, Status, and Conservation Action Plan,” with the Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. But he recorded his raw data the old-fashioned way—in decades of small, spiral-bound notebooks—and researchers will likely continue to learn from the late great herpetologist long into the future.
While he will certainly be remembered for his contributions to science, those who knew him will never forget the deep reverence he held for nature and the passion that drove his work. BRMC founder Andrea Currier recalls turning to Martin at an evening event on a beautiful hilltop in Front Royal and remarking, “Isn’t this pretty perfect?” Martin replied, “Actually, no,” and explained, “There are no rattlesnakes here!”
“Marty’s happiness was intrinsically tied to the presence and well-being of venomous snake populations,” explains Villari, “especially his beloved timbers.”
A celebration of Marty Martin’s life will be held at Morgan’s Grove Park in Shepherdstown, WV on September 25th at 1 PM. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Catoctin Land Trust (catoctinlandtrust.org) or the Bull Run Mountains Conservancy (brmconservancy.org).
This article first appeared in the September 2022 Issue.
Written by Victoria Peace
Photos by Gracie Withers
If there is one thing that Tami Erickson, the pantry manager of Seven Loaves Services, wishes Hunt Country residents would keep in mind, it’s that despite living in one of the richest counties in America, surrounded by wealth and opportunity, there are still people in the community who struggle with food insecurity on a daily basis. “It’s hard in our area to remember that the need still exists,” Erickson emphasizes. “I wish people recognized how quickly any of us could be food insecure.”
In Loudoun County, over 15,000 people experience food insecurity on an annual basis. Unfortunately, this number only increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Seven Loaves Services was established in 1994 in order to help combat food insecurity by supplying nutritious food to those in need in Middleburg and the surrounding area. Today, the pantry provides approximately 90 families per week with shelf-stable goods, dairy items, meat, breads, and pastries, in addition to special snack packs for households with children.
The food is primarily donated from four local, Loudoun County grocery stores that Seven Loaves has formed partnerships with. The stores donate items to the pantry which would otherwise go to waste including deli items, frozen foods, and meat. Seven Loaves also purchases some canned goods and fresh fruits and vegetables wholesale and receives large quantities of donated vegetables from local farmers. In fact, the day of this interview with Middleburg Life, Erickson received 300 pounds of fresh produce from the Oak Spring Garden Foundation.
About 50 percent of the families that the pantry serves live in Loudoun County. The other 50 percent come from 15 other surrounding counties. According to Erickson, this sets Seven Loaves apart from many of the Loudoun-based pantries that exclusively serve local households. The majority of patrons travel to Seven Loaves each week to pick up groceries from the pantry located in the basement of the Middleburg United Methodist Church. However, Seven Loaves volunteers also do weekly home deliveries to a small group of Middleburg-based at-risk seniors.
Currently there are around 50 to 60 Seven Loaves volunteers. According to Erickson, they do everything from food distribution, to repackaging food, to sorting grocery store donations, and driving to pick up food from local stores.
If you’re looking to get involved, the best way to find opportunities is through the volunteer tab of the Seven Loaves website. The biggest volunteer need that the pantry currently has is for drivers. However, they can always use people to help out with assembly and organization on distribution days.
If you can’t volunteer but you are still looking for a way to support Seven Loaves, the pantry also accepts both food and monetary donations. Monetary donations can be made through Paypal on Seven Loaves’ website, and shelf-stable food donations can be dropped off at the pantry on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Right now, the Seven Loaves team has already started gearing up for the holiday season. “It sounds crazy to say this but we are beginning our holiday food collection,” Erickson says. “Every year we give our families a special bag around Thanksgiving and the winter holidays that includes everything for a holiday meal.” Seven Loaves is specifically looking for donations of boxed mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, canned yams, cranberries, green beans, oil, chicken broth, and canned pumpkin. People can reach out to the pantry at [email protected] if they are interested in dropping off one or more of these items.
Erickson has been the pantry manager at Seven Loaves for almost a year now. For her, the most fulfilling aspect of her job is “providing for families what they wouldn’t otherwise be able to have.” With the rising costs of fruits, vegetables, and meats, it has never been more important to have an organization that ensures that all members of the community can have access to healthy, nutritious meals.
If you are looking for a way to have a direct impact on the lives of your fellow community members, consider donating to or volunteering with Seven Loaves this fall. Even here in Hunt Country, “There are still families in need,” Erickson says. “Don’t forget about your local food pantries.” ML
For more information about donation and volunteer opportunities, please visit sevenloavesmiddleburg.org.
This article first appeared in the September 2022 issue.