I’ve had a long love affair with Rounton Farm. When my family lived in Orange, Virginia, my kids LOVED spending time there. We’ve attended auctions and barn parties there. The kids took swimming lessons and went to summer camps there. We’ve fed horses and held baby chicks there. Rounton is even where we hosted the twins’ second birthday bash—farm theme, of course. And that doesn’t even begin to describe the farm’s main attraction: weddings backdropped by rolling hills and towering trees followed by a reception in the big red barn. It’s picture perfect, y’all. But the best part of the whole deal is owner Ellen Pitera. Ellen is the daughter of a gentleman farmer whose family raised cattle and worked this gorgeous piece of land in central Virginia. Over the years, the role of the farm has changed but simple values remain: authenticity, ingenuity, family, and a good sense of humor. Welcome, Ellen, to the blog! I’m so glad to be in your company.
Tell us a little bit about Rounton Farm.
Rounton Farm is a family run, working farm. In its earliest days, we raised Hereford beef cattle and made hay to use and sell. The hay remains but over the years, horses have replaced the cattle in the rolling fields, and the thousands of square hay bales stacked high in the barn have been replaced by a unique event space. Slowly we have flipped and modified the buildings on the farm giving each one a new purpose. The granary and work bench area is now a groomsmen lounge and six-stall bathroom. The ice house, which once held blocks of ice under sawdust to use one by one in the ice box (refrigerator) in the farm house, is now a Bridal Suite and off-season Airbnb cottage. The old equipment shed holds hay for the horses and the old dairy barn and milk parlor host five horse stalls and a tack room. We are busy year-round with a variety of businesses including weddings, summer camps, horse boarding, Hunt club and skeet shooting.
You’ve certainly diversified your business. Do you have a favorite event?
Our variety of businesses are highlighted at different times of the year. Each season brings new enthusiasm so it’s hard to pick a favorite event. Boarding horses is my first love. Horses have been part of my life since we moved to the farm when I was 4. There is something therapeutic for me to be around them and, of course, riding around the farm with my boys gives me great happiness. Certainly, working with couples to create a memorable wedding day brings me joy, and watching kids open up to nature during summer camps is very rewarding as well!
What tool, object, or habit could you not live without in your workday?
I find this odd to say it because I don’t feel like a tech savvy gal, but my iPhone is my most necessary business tool. I put it away during family time but being able to respond to prospective couples within minutes of an inquiry, calling Piedmont Power to get the mower fixed pronto, or checking the status of a wedding contract on the Honeybook App, is all done from my phone! Some days, I’m monitoring bank accounts while pulling weeds, or sitting on the tractor mowing, feeding horses, waiting for the school bus or preparing the barn for a wedding, all with phone in hand. Couldn’t do all that we do without it!
What’s the biggest overall lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned about running a business is that people are craving authenticity. Our brides and grooms want someone who is genuinely interested in the details when striving to create one of the most memorable days of their lives. Our camp parents want a team of teachers and junior counselors who really believe in the benefits of the great outdoors and have good, old fashioned fun with their children when they’re here. Our hunters want a place where they can experience ethical hunting and maybe try skeet shooting for the first time in a relaxed, learning friendly environment. Everything we do on the farm is done with authenticity, with the personal experience in mind.
Who keeps you company in your line of work?
Rounton Farm and the surrounding property has been in my family for three generations. My father’s family had a working farm across the road from Rounton. When my mother came from Denmark to study at the University of Virginia, she and my dad met, married, and settled here. My mom still lives on the property and keeps me company daily. My husband and boys also keep me company. Rob manages the guided hunts in the fall, and helps run the summer camps. My boys do farm chores just like I did growing up. It has been very fulfilling to not only make our dreams and goals come to fruition, but to accomplish these goals as a family. The work of a farm isn’t easy, but it is soul filling.