Hermitage Hill Farm & Stables, one of the Shenandoah Valley’s most unique and popular wedding and event venues, is about to add a brand new dimension to its operations by opening a destination brewery and farm store.
Hermitage Hill Farm & Stables (www.hermitagehillfarm.com), located in Waynesboro, is set to open a craft brewery in late 2015, said owner Craig Nargi. Nargi is a longtime fixture on the local business and hospitality scenes and an agritourism leader who has led important lobbying efforts on the local, regional and state levels. His 20-years-plus of hospitality experience is highlighted by leadership roles in high-profile resort kitchens including Keswick, Wintergreen and Kiawah Island Resort.
Craig and Nikki Nargi have operated Hermitage Hill Farm & Stables, a working horse farm and event venue, since 2006. The new brewery and farm shop, he said, represents a longtime dream for the couple to bring together the culinary and hospitality worlds with their tireless commitment to preserve and celebrate the region’s agricultural riches. “We are excited to bring a first-class, authentic farm brewery to the Shenandoah Valley,” Nargi said.
The agrarian culture is at the heart of all that happens at Hermitage Hill. “As opposed to being a hospitality business with a farm thrown in, we have always seen ourselves as a working farm first and foremost,” Nargi said. “We pride ourselves on the ability to share not only our gorgeous farm property, but the sights, sounds, rhythms, and traditions that go into operating it on a day-to-day basis. The brewery and farm store will allow us to do this on an even larger scale while providing local beer aficionados with a unique addition to the craft brewery landscape here.”
In addition, according to Amanda Glover, Director of Economic Development for Augusta County, the new brewery will have an important economic impact on the community. “Craig Nargi has been a leader in our region’s important agritourism efforts for years, and has proven himself to be a creative and dedicated partner in the effort to enhance business here,” Glover said. “We could not be more excited about this project, which will not only bring jobs to the area, but will draw significant numbers of area residents and tourists to explore and appreciate all that the Shenandoah Valley has to offer.”
The new brewery will offer between 10-12 craft beers that will showcase Nargi’s long and successful track record exploring flavors. Food will be also available through Hermitage Hill’s onsite catering operation.
As he has throughout his career, Nargi said he will put green practices at the heart of Hermitage Hill’s expanded brewery and farm store operation. Hermitage Hill has already doubled it hop production in its first year of growing, thanks to successes related to its growing medium, greenhouse nurturing and yard management. A recently-added second hop yard will enable the property to increase production to up to 1,500 plants. Thanks in part to a partnership with the James Madison University Integrated Science Department, the property has been able to greatly increase the strength of its plants, and has plans to add a hop harvester machine that will allow it to offer processing to other local growers.
The brewery’s spent grain will be fed to the farm’s cows, which are raised and managed under strict USDA guidelines. Eggs from the property will be found in the farm shop offering as well as in foods it serves. Fruits, herbs and vegetables grown on the property will add flavor to everything from gourmet burgers, farm pizzas and more. Those same plantings will also serve to enhance the landscape to create new venues for formal and informal gatherings. “For instance,” he said, “we envision that our peach trees will develop into a grove that will become a perfect place for a wedding ceremony, or just a great place to sit back, relax, and enjoy our beers.”
Additional sustainable practices will include rain water collection and utilizing bio char waste from the farm’s barn to making full use of compost excess from receptions and events on the property.
“We live in a world where rustic is trendy,” Nargi said, “and where the word ‘farm’ is thrown around maybe a little bit more than it should be. What this results in sometimes are places that don’t properly reflect the agrarian culture that is such an important part of life in our region. Our brewery and market will help us to put these traditions first, both in our practices and in our ability to share them with everyone who comes through our doors. “
Craig Nargi’s hospitality career includes award-winning stints at Kiawah Island Resort, Wintergreen Resort, Glenmore Country Club and Stokely Hospitality in positions including Executive Chef, Executive Sous Chef and Food and Beverage Director. He opened Mossy Creek and Mossy Creek Catering in 1997, which grew to include two restaurants, seven catering trucks and 75 employees traveling to events throughout Virginia and beyond. Nikki Nargi is an accomplished graphic designer with a deep equestrian background who lends vast knowledge and experience to what has become one of the region’s premier horse farms.
The new consumer outlets on the property will allow Nargi and the Hermitage Hill staff to share their green practices with the public through special tours. “We would love for people to leave here with not just a positive hospitality and culinary experience,” he said, “but also with a greater understanding of what we are trying to accomplish, and maybe ideas on ways they can make a difference when it comes to sustainable living.”
Plans for the accompanying farm store, Nargi said, include selling beer, hops, Hermitage Hill-themed promotional items and horse and wedding-related products and merchandise.
“Very few people have the opportunity to create their dream business,” Nargi said, “to work and live on a stunning piece of property surrounded by mountain views all around, and to spend quality time with your family surrounding you in the effort. Everything about what we are doing here is designed to be in this for the long haul, to serve the members of this community while shining a deserved spotlight on our region as a whole.”