Family Farming: Spring Farm Tour Showcases Generations at Georges Mill

Georges Mill Farm near Lovettsville has a long and colorful history, from Confederate raids to 19th century romance. Now, four generations of the original family live on the property, which includes a working dairy farm and artisan cheese business, along with a bed-and-breakfast, combining 21st century agro-tourism with old-school multi-generational living.

Family matriarch Fran Wire, whose late husband, Robert, was a descendant of the farm’s original owner, has operated a beloved bed-and-breakfast at the property’s historic main house since 1999. Next door, Wire’s grandson Sam Kroiz and his wife, Molly, part of a new wave of young farmers in Loudoun, raise dairy goats and run Georges Mill Artisan Cheese.

This weekend is a big one for the family, as the Kroizes welcome visitors for the Loudoun Spring Farm tour Saturday and Sunday and Wire gives a talk on the farm’s history at the Lovettsville Historical Society’s May 20 meeting.

“We’re enjoying our little oasis,” said Donna Kroiz, Fran’s daughter and Sam’s mother, who lives just down the road from the B&B and dairy with her husband, Louis. The farm is also home to Sam’s sister Beth Metzger and her husband, Jeff, along with three of Donna’s four sisters. The fourth generation includes Sam and Molly’s daughter Mabel, 3, and 9-month old son Doolin, along with their 1-year-old cousin Lyle.

The Georges Mill clan is blessed with plenty of space: the gorgeous stone B&B, built in the mid-1800s and known by the family as the “big house,” along with numerous farmhouses on the 150-acre property west of Lovettsville, mean plenty of room for 17 family members in multiple homes. The farm, which dates to 1774, has been in the hands of John George’s descendants for eight generations. Robert Wire, a direct descendant through his mother, grew up across the road from the big house and, as the only child of his generation, inherited the sprawling property.

Fran, who grew up in Prince George’s County, MD, met Robert while working for the B&O Railroad near Baltimore. The couple and their five daughters moved around the mid-Atlantic for Robert’s job before moving to the farm in the late 1980s to take care of Robert’s mother and aunt. They opened the B&B in 1999 as a way to generate some income to take care of needed upgrades to the property.

“It just occurred to us that this might be a nice thing to do—not only to make money but to enjoy it and enjoy people coming and sharing it with us,” Fran said.Now her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who live next door, often hang out in the kitchen with B&B guests.

Back row (standing) from left: Donna Kroiz, holding Mabel Kroiz, Beth Metzger holding Lyle Metzger, Jeff Metzger. Seated backrow from left: Keith VanDamm, Fran Wire, Peter Prutzman. Middle row from left: Sue Wire, Ruth Crocker and Jan Wire. Front row from left: Louis Kroiz, Molly Kroiz, Sam Kroiz holding Doolin Kroiz. Together, the family runs a bed-and-breakfast and Georges Mill Artisan Cheese. [Douglas Graham/Loudoun Now]
            “Everybody gets a big kick out of that,” she said.“My guests all say, ‘My kids are in California or Texas. You don’t know how lucky you are to have them.’”

Before the beginnings of the B&B, Donna and Louis had already returned to the family farm in 1979 where they raised Sam and his two sisters and Donna supervised student records for Loudoun County Public Schools. When Sam graduated from Loudoun Valley High School and headed to the University of Virginia in 2001, returning to Georges Mill wasn’t necessarily part of his plan.

“When I left, I didn’t really think about coming back,” he said.

After college, Sam got a job in Alaska at a fishery run by the University of Washington and met Molly, a Maine native who was doing fisheries research for her graduate degree. The couple lived in the Seattle area for several years, and during their time there, Molly discovered the artisan cheese movement. She began making cheese as a hobby, and when she decided to make artisan cheese her life’s work, Sam knew that the family farm was the place to start. He and Molly moved to Georges Mill in 2011 and got their first goats the following spring. They now have 36 does, and their 2018 spring babies totaled 71.

For Molly, who grew up in the tight knit community of Bath, ME, Georges Mill felt like home from the start.

“I grew up in a small town that had a really strong sense of community,” she said. “I feel like I’ve found that here. …When we came out to visit before we decided to move back, it felt right. I love it here.”

Molly makes a range of handcrafted goat cheeses (including Mabel’s favorite—a chevre made with local ramps—and French style ash cheeses) which they sell at their on-site honor system farm store, at several area farmers markets and local restaurants.

The Kroizes encourage visitors to come and visit their goats all spring and are usually up for giving tours with a little advance notice. The semi-annual Loudoun Farm Tour brings visitors to the farm in droves, and this weekend, folks can hang out with the season’s last batch of adorable kids.

Sam Kroiz is also well known in western Loudoun as the fiddle player and vocalist for the old-time bluegrass trio Short Hill Mountain Boys, named for the beloved mountain range at the farm’s western edge. Sam and Molly host monthly barn dances at the farm (the next one is slated for mid-June) and welcome visitors. And those gatherings are in line with the farm’s history, Fran says. The farm was home to be a functioning mill for decades, starting in the 1700s. But when the building stopped being used as a mill in the late 1800s, the family hosted dances on the top floor.

The Kroizes also rent the barn, with its gorgeous fields and backdrop, as a rustic event venue. But the dairy operations are at the heart of their business.

“It is really important to us to still have the farm. The farm needs to be the core of it,” Sam said. “When it’s all tourism and no agriculture, then it’s not agritourism anymore.”

Mabel Kroiz carries a baby goat at her family’s farm, a favorite spot on this weekend’s Loudoun Spring Farm Tour. [Douglas Graham/Loudoun Now]
            Sam has been an outspoken advocate for preserving western Loudoun’s rural heritage, and he and Molly believe that one of their roles in opening the farm up to visitors is showing them why rural western Loudoun is worth preserving.

“He definitely has a passion,” his grandmother said. “And I think that’s really wonderful that it worked that way because he does care, and he’s made a lot of other people care.”
Georges Mill Artisan Cheese opens its doors for the Loudoun Spring Farm Tour Saturday, May 19, and Sunday, May 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, go to loudounfarms.org/farmtour.
Fran Wire discusses the history of Georges Mill Farm as the featured speaker at the Lovettsville Historical Society meeting Sunday, May 20, at 2 p.m. at St. James UCC, 10 E. Broad Way in Lovettsville. Find details at lovettsvillehistoricalsociety.org.

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