Respecting the Past, Marketing for Today
When early colonists in the pre-Revolutionary War period wandered into what would later be called the Greenbrier Valley, they discovered an area that had been cleared by the Shawnee and other indigenous people of the region. The pastures provided forage for woodland bison, elk and deer, animals that were staples of their diet.
Young George Washington surveyed the old native trail for the James and Kanawha River Turnpike, now U.S. Route 60 through the region. Settlers were coming in, enjoying the gently rolling cleared land after the struggle through the high passes of the densely wooded Appalachian Mountains to the east. Following the Revolutionary War land grants were issued as payment for service and many of today’s Greenbrier Valley’s families came to settle there and establish their farms.
Tootie (Jennifer) Jones’ family are relative newcomers. Her land, Swift Level Farm, has had four owners over 200 years. Her grandparents purchased about 2500 acres in 1930. The land since then has been divided by the family and Tootie manages 151 acres which includes the main house (built in the 1830s), the barns (built in the 1930s) and numerous outbuildings.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Her grandmother’s quarter horse breeding program complemented her grandfather’s cattle operation. His beef was known to be among the best in the nation. In fact, the Greenbrier Valley has always been a huge beef producing region, currently sending 10,000 head of cattle to the market each year.
Swift Level practices careful land management techniques and animal husbandry with humane and respectful treatment. The steers live an organic life, free of antibiotics and hormone implants. Swift Level is chemical, pesticide and herbicide-free, which means the animals are too. She currently has 117 head of Angus and processes them year-round. Half of the meat goes to restaurants and half is available to the public.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Tootie also raises thoroughbreds and uses quarter horses to move her livestock to new pasture. She currently has 15 horses. As her horses are pastured year-round she is in the process of renovating her massive barns into functional space for events.
Swift Level hosts numerous events during the year, from weddings to corporate meetings to educational programs. A newly formed nonprofit side of the Swift Level farm will develop an enhanced educational program that will help renovate the farm with some historically accurate buildings including a mill, introduce how to cure meats and make cheese, and bring in elders to help teach the younger in forgotten methods and stories.
Future plans also include raising heritage breed turkeys at Swift Level. This once again ties in with the colonial period when the region raised a massive amount of poultry which was then driven (that means walked!) to eastern seaports to ship to England.
Tootie’s involvement in the local food system involves not only marketing her own farm products but helping manage the Monroe Farm Market which aggregates products from 25 Monroe County farms and provides them to the public by filling orders and ships to Union, Lewisberg and Charleston on a weekly basis.
Jennifer “Tootie” Jones
Route 2 Box 269
Herns Mill Road
Lewisburg, WV 24901