Buying Farm Seed at the Winchester Feed Store

Lois Aylestock shares stories of Winchester Feed Store where buying farm seed, swapping tall tales, buying livestock feed and learning the local farm news all takes place at the store counter.

| March/April 2007

Buying farm seed is only one of the benefits for homesteaders at the Winchester Feed Store.

As a visitor approaches downtown Winchester, Virginia, east of the congressional hubub of Washington, D.C., the landscape changes from the rolling hills of the Shenandoah Valley to cookie-cutter homes. Then, as if by magic, the scene transforms to a quaint and bustling town of magnificent architecture, antique shops and the delicious sights of farm markets full of apples. Winchester is home to one of the largest apple export markets in the United States; but depending on whom you ask, you may hear that Winchester is better known either for their hometown sweetheart, Patsy Cline, or the town's famous feed store.

Built in the early 1920s, Winchester Feed and Seed has always been a feed store, despite changes in ownership. "This is the main grocer for many critters in the valley and the Tri-state area," says Paul Baumgardner, owner of the famous feed store. "The Virginia State Reserve Grand Champion Market lamb owned by Kyley Clevenger gets his lunch here." The lamb is only the latest of the many champions whose weekly groceries have been supplied by Baumgardner and his staff. Paul supports the FFA and the local 4-H clubs and regularly attends livestock fair sales.

On a humid summer morning, the air is sweet, and the smell of molasses and hay brings back memories of being young and feeding horses with family back in Maryland. The feed store is redolent with the sweet smell of nostalgia, and permission is given to slow down and take it all in. The mood is that of your Pop's old shed, on a grander scale with more stuff to get into.

The feed store is still the spot to come and get the news. The previous owner, Jim Adams, held court every day since the 1960s. He had a huge bench that he sat behind and discussed the town gossip over a cup of coffee with local farmers, or whoever wanted to sit a spell — a task he performed faithfully until March of last year, when health reasons made it necessary to sell the store to Paul and his wife, Susan.

On this afternoon, a local livestock hauler leans on the counter with a jaw full of chew as big as a softball, chatting with Tommy Polk, sales representative.

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