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Modesto farmWalking through a greenhouse at Modesto Farms on Rolling Road is a treat for the senses.

See beautiful bedding plants, feel the breeze and hear the music.

To the Goin family, growing means more than planting and tending. It also means learning and embracing change.

Like discovering that plants grow better with music, and circulating air makes seedlings strong and disrupts flying pests. And using other plants to control insects is better than chemicals.

Gene Goin, Jr., is just carrying on the tradition of his great-great-grandfather, Judge Eugene Newton Wood, who built the family homestead, said his mother Claudia Goin, who with her husband, George, and son owns the 575 acres they call home.

“My great-grandfather was very conscientious of how nature can work for him,” she said.

The house, finished in 1896, is basically a smaller house inside a bigger one, George Goin said. “Air between the two acts as insulation,” he said.

Claudia Goin said she figured her grandfather, who oversaw the construction, also helped fell trees. “Only heart pine would do,” she said.

There are 14 springs and creeks on the farm, Gene Goin said. In fact, that’s why the farm is named Modesto; he said the word is of Native American derivation meaning “land of many springs.”

In 2012 the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District honored the Goins with a clean water award for the work they did protecting and wisely using the water on their land. They fenced out all the streams, springs and ponds. They planted the fenced areas in native grasses and trees. They built five drive-through crossings for their cattle, George Goin said.

“We split the fields out. You do a better job with rotational grazing. The fences keep them out of the streams,” he said. “It’s easier to move cattle then it is to move hay.”

Gene Goin earned a degree in biology and environmental health.  He said he spent summers and weekends, before and after school, helping around the farm. “We’ve always had our fingers in the dirt, so to speak,” he said.

When Modesto was first established in 1893, farming meant growing crops. Then it became a dairy farm, then crops and beef cattle. Now Modesto Farms, which has about 170 additional acres split between Prince Edward, Amherst and Matthews Counties, has beef cattle, hay, a small laying operation for chickens, and the greenhouse.

George Goin started the greenhouse to diversify when he retired.

“It was supposed to be just a spring operation, but the year he opened up, four other greenhouses in the area closed in the fall and people started calling us because they couldn’t get their plants,” Gene Goin said.

Besides selling to the public, Modesto has the exclusive contract to supply Michie Tavern and Montpelier with flowers. Gene Goin said he provides “starts,” which are baby plants or seedlings, to six commercial growers.

He’s been a staple at Charlottesville’s City Market for at least 15 years. He sells flowers, not produce, but takes pride in knowing much of the produce sold there started in his greenhouse.
“I go around the city market and say, that’s mine, that’s mine,” he said.

He loves the diversity farming offers: cattle in the morning, talking with customers all day, and in between doing maintenance and working on building projects.

And always learning and trying new things.

Gene Goin tests soils for ABS Greenworld, Inc., in Mattaponi, Va. “I’ve got trials going on now in four different types of soil,” he said. “I grow plants in their experimental soils and give them feedback.”
As for controlling pests? The Goins eschew chemicals. Modesto is the only farm in the area that uses carnivorous plants such as pitcher plants, which are native to Virginia, Venus flytraps, butterworts and sun dews to help control insects.

Modesto has been featured for its natural practice on the PBS program Virginia Home Grown.

The Goin family is a force for good in Fluvanna. George Goin lobbied hard to bring back an agriculture program to Fluvanna County High School. The family worked with other farmers and 4-H to bring back the county fair. They provide tents, fencing and lots of time to the days-long August event.

Stop by and visit Modesto Farms at 952 Rolling Road South to see an agricultural gem right in your own backyard. They are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday through October.