Perhaps best titled as, “the long road home,” Clay Trainum and Autumn Olive Farms has a rich backstory and history that, like a fine prosciutto, is the product of experience, artisanship and time.
Clay returned to his family farm in 2008 after leaving it in 1980, young, impulsive, frustrated, and vowing he would never return. That motivation led to a relocation to NC, and a successful construction business for 23 years. He followed that up with a fruitful 8 years as Executive Director of an NPO focused to provide a sustainable and better life for many tribal peoples in some of the hardest places of Indonesia. It was ironic to have left the farm only to find himself leading efforts to establish a 3 year Agricultural Apprenticeship program teaching sustainable, agricultural and marketing practices. That program is self sustaining and continues to this day saving lives and families literally halfway around the world who suffer from drought, famine and locust plagues. It was in that experience that he discovered the richness of his heritage and that good food and water is essential to good life, health, family and community.
That heritage of hard work, raising and gathering fresh local food was for Clay a central part of life and culture, both in work and leisure. Cooking, gardening, canning, hunting, fishing, curing and consuming all the above was and is their family norm. This formative development was no longer a burden and hardship but a great bridge for him among indigenous peoples. With that common experience there could be oneness, and a platform to work together for the greater good. That generated great accomplishment, excitement, fulfillment and sense of purpose.
He thought it would be their life's work, but fate had another route for them. What ultimately brought them back to the farm and the start of Autumn Olive Farms was Clay and Linda’s attempt to restore their health after a mold exposure led to a serious biotoxin illness for them both. Their whole farm model was to raise very healthy and high quality food to heal themselves. Their products also turned out to be delicious! Delicious coupled with healthy, fair pricing and great customer service was the right platform and launch point for AOF. It would seem that time, circumstance, maturity, global experience and passion led to the formation of Autumn Olive Farms as a full time business in 2010.
Autumn Olive Farms is focused on pork, lamb and goat and that is not by accident. Animals and animal care was also always a part of their lives. Both LInda and Clay had always had and cared for a variety of animals and it was no coincidence that they met at the Veterinary Hospital that Linda worked at while getting her degree as a Veterinary Technician. His experience was on farm, including raising orphaned Patterson’s Berkshires. It was a natural fit for them both.
Their love and appreciation of healthy, fresh food coupled with their life experience has proven to be a valuable asset with their Chef and Butcher customers. The focus has always been to work with top Chefs and Butchers with a shared passion to put the absolute best products in front of customers with great expectations. That has proven to be a very successful model for and they continue to experience significant, steady growth every year.
AOF is a true and complete farm model in that they represent two full time couples and 4 sons who are also working with them full time. In addition they focus heavily on specific and complimenting Heritage breeds with great genetics. They breed and birth all the Berkshires, Ossabaws and Berkabaws that they sell. Additionally they source the finest fancy #1 Virginia lamb from the central and western mountain regions of VA and Eastern W. VA from like minded farmers. AOF believes that with great intention, they have in fact captured the amazing terroir of the Central Shenandoah Valley in their products and that is a huge reason for their success.
They continue to receive terrific accolades from the top professionals in the industry. Their products have been featured 5 times thus far at the James Beard House and it was a great honor for them to be named 2015 Purveyor of the Year for RIchmond. This now their life's work, to be the best in their field and to be difference makers in the lives of those they serve and interact with.
Autumn Olive Farms is located in Augusta County in the Central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Clay and his wife Linda have three sons, Logan, Tyler and Luke. Logan and Tyler are full time with AOF and Luke is off to California to pursue his dreams of making great wines to go with our pork, lamb and goat!