If you’re looking for a local place to pick up some fresh produce, there’s a new option: Black Dog Produce, located on Boulder Springs Lane just south of the town of Louisa.
Owner Steve Phillips opened the doors of his business on June 10 after two years of preparations. He spent much of that time clearing land at his farm, Black Dog Meadows, to grow fruits and vegetables.
“We were kind of thinking, ‘Let’s just crack the door open and see what happens,’” he said. “The door’s been wide open ever since.”
Phillips grew up on a tobacco farm in Dinwiddie County and has brought his knowledge of farming with him.
“I got tired of people paying high prices for food that didn’t taste good,” he said. “Folks deserve something good to eat at a good price ... There’s a saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I’m going to try to get into your heart by feeding your stomach.”
Phillips currently has squash, cucumbers and zucchini for sale and hopes to add tomatoes, onions, beans and other crops as the weeks go on. Next year he intends to have strawberries and blackberries among his offerings. He’s already looking ahead to planting his fall crop and plans to start a "you pick" program for people to harvest some of their own produce at a lesser cost.
“So far, everyone’s been happy,” he said. “That’s a better sound than the cash register.”
Phillips plans on growing a variety of produce himself, but there are some things, such as corn, watermelons and pumpkin, that he won’t be growing on-site. Those he’ll get from other Virginia farms to keep the produce as local as possible.
The name for both the farm and the produce business was inspired by Phillips' dog Maisy, who serves as the mascot for both.
“She’s a great mascot,” he said. “She loves cucumbers. She’ll eat cucumbers all day long. We can be on the other side of the field from the cucumbers and she’ll wander over and get one and go lay in the shade and eat it.”
Right now, Phillips is primarily selling to customers who come to the store, but as he grows the business over the next few years, he plans to begin selling to stores and other businesses, not just in Louisa County, but around the state.
“I hope to take the name statewide in the next three to five years,” he said.
Even then, he’ll keep the store open and have produce available for customers to come buy for themselves.
Phillips’ store is open from Wednesday to Saturday every week, giving him three days to restock and add more produce as it comes in. His hours are from 12 to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, 10 to 6 on Thursdays and Fridays and 9 to 3 on Saturdays. He’ll have produce available for 10 months of the year.