By Katie Hoffman
delli Carpini Farm of Beaverdam, VA has joined the Center for Rural Culture's online local food market, Fall Line Farms and Local Roots
The Colorado potato beetles have done his potatoes in, but Dominic Carpin is philosophical. “It’s been a good year for the alliums,” he says. “I’ve got plenty of great onions cured and ready to sell. They’ll store great! And I can plant a fall crop of potatoes.”
Dominic (pictured above on his vintage Farmall tractor) knows how to roll with the punches. He went into farming after being laid off from his job with Capital One. While still employed at Capital One, his love of gardening re-awakened when he became a team captain for a community service project at Chimborazo Elementary. Dominic was the subject matter expert for the team, overseeing the renovation of the grass lawns and the construction of an outdoor classroom. After being laid off, he began doing day labor for a friend in Goochland. He noticed that his friend had a 1500 square foot, deer-proofed garden that he wasn’t going to use. Dominic asked to use the garden, his friend agreed, and the seeds of delli Carpini Farm were sown. After working in several other locations, Dominic finally found his current 12-acre farm, where he is celebrating the five-year anniversary of his agricultural endeavor.
Italian Roots, Heirloom Branches
Delli Carpini Farm’s focus is on heirloom vegetables. Dominic notes that it all began with Italian heirlooms—an homage to his heritage. He waxes poetic as he describes what he loves best to grow: “Romanesca zucchini. Wow! They’re more flavorful than a normal zucchini and they have a harder texture. Some are shaped like a ball. And there’s Lacinato kale. And San Marzano tomatoes—large ribbed Italian sauce tomatoes—so dry they’re great for sauces. I also grow two or three Italian specialty eggplants. And very cool Italian radishes—Candle of Fire. And Neopolitans that look like carrots but one is hot pink—one goes from red to hot pink to white.” The list continues to include Italian lettuces, chicory, radicchio, escarole, endive, and wild fennel, among other things.
Though his emphasis still tends to be on Italian heirlooms, Dominic has added a number of other heirlooms to his offerings, including Japanese and Eastern European beans and a number of different types of potatoes (when the beetles don’t attack so ferociously). He is also interested in herbalism, and raises lots of crops with both culinary and medicinal uses—burdock, elderberries, spring oats for milky stage seed pods, and wild white rose flowers.
Farming With Nature
Despite the beetles and bugs, Dominic is committed to going as natural as possible with his farming. “I use biointensive techniques,” he says. “Also some biodynamic. I plant by the signs. I use only OMRI listed inputs. [OMRI is the Organic Materials Review Institute]. That includes things like rock powders, fish emulsion, granite dust, phosphate rock, wood ash. I'm not certified [organic], but I don’t spray anything stronger than soap and horticultural oil. Nothing strong, not even Captain Jack’s dead bug brew. It’s powerful, but I don’t use it anymore. Instead, I try to create an ecosystem that will benefit the beneficial insects. I use a lot of buckwheat, blue tansy. That brings in the beneficial bugs. And I use covercropping and rotation: legume leaf, root, fruit,”
Dominic is a man with a plan. He says, “One of my goals is to earn a living wage as a one-man army. No farm debt, no employees. I do use some casual labor and volunteers. Part of my plan is growing pure, clean food. I like to consider my farm a bumblebee sanctuary. I am catering to kids with food allergies--providing chemical-free foods that improve disorders and help alleviate allergies.”
Another part of his plan is forming relationships with others in the local food system. “Some of my best customers are restaurants like Alewife and Perch. I also work with Ellwood-Thompson’s. I like the idea that we’re building a farm community. For example, I collaborate with lots of other farmers. One is Allgood Acres. They’re meat farmers. The owner is a retired marine out of Nebraska. He let me use his heated greenhouse this year.”
When he isn’t digging in his fabulous farm dirt or driving his vintage Farmall tractor, Dominic is planning other farm-related activities. You might have seen him on TV a few weeks ago, talking about his farm on Virginia Currents. The Hanover County Master Gardeners are touring delli Carpini on September 8th, and he’s working with Alewife to plan a Canary Islands dinner on September 29th (more on that later). Dominic also plays music as a member of The Cashmere Jungle Lords.
Our members will find a lot of good things on the delli Carpini page. Check out the early white California garlic, which Dominic notes is mild and delicious, besides being one of the best storage garlics you can find. And there are Stuttgarter onions and Red Wethersfeld onions, cured carefully and ready for storage, sold in small batches or larger cartons. Get them while he has them, and you’ll enjoy them into the fall and winter. “The onions have spectacular taste, says Dominic. “They’re especially good this year.”
Order food directly from delli Carpini Farm via our online farmers market: