by Joan Tupponce
Don and Jenny Hochstein are taking homesteading to a new level by living a simple, sustainable lifestyle that appears to benefit the environment and their business.
The owners of Pick-a-Pine Plantation in South Boston, the Hochsteins installed a wind turbine on their property to generate electricity and use vegetable and biodiesel oil in their cars and farm vehicles. They also make their own butter, cheese and sour cream when their two milk cows are producing milk.
In the community, Jenny Hochstein serves as the county’s recycling coordinator. She and her husband opened a recycling center and ran it for five years.
When the couple bought their 70-acre farm in 1999, they debated on whether to raise grapes or Christmas trees. They finally opted for Christmas trees. “There were plenty of wineries around here so I think we made the right decision,” Jenny Hochstein says.
Twenty to 30 acres of their farm now are planted with trees, mainly drought- and heat-resistant Virginia pines, which were developed by Virginia Tech. “They are a cross between a Scotch pine and a spruce,” Jenny Hochstein says. “Everyone wants Fraser firs, but they don’t grow here.”
The couple had an eye on the environment in starting the tree farm. “When you plant trees, you provide oxygenation to purify the air,” Jenny Hochstein says. “The roots of the trees purify water systems and soil. Even our cull trees [the ones that don’t make the grade], we keep because they are still doing their job for the environment.”
When they installed their wind turbine in 2007, there were only two other residential wind turbines in Virginia. At 70 feet, theirs was the tallest. “We wanted to invest in energy after we sold the recycling facility,” Jenny Hochstein says, noting that the turbine feeds into the grid. “We use it and our neighbors use it.”
In another attempt to conserve energy, Don Hochstein converted the couple’s two diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz automobiles to run on pure vegetable oil. He also makes biodiesel that they use in their cars and farm machinery. “When you farm, you realize how much waste there is,” Hochstein says.
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