Locust Grove Farm, King and Queen County

Locust Grove Farm, King and Queen County
Locust Grove has been hosting the annual Wine and Arts Festival on the banks of the Mattaponi River since 2005.

Locust Grove Farm has been a community gathering place for as long as Jerry Walker can remember. “My dad grew up in Richmond and my mother grew up in Norfolk, and all her kin were from James City, so there was always a crew of people coming in.” When family was scarce, his father made sure to fill the house with neighbors. “If things were slow my dad would stand up in church and invite everybody over for a little ‘thirst after righteousness,’” he laughs.

So when the Walkers (Jerry and his wife, Cecky Ropelewski, along with Jerry’s sister, Letitia) wanted to add other revenue-generating ventures to their soybean, wheat, corn and sod production, opening the 360-year old family farm up to the public for events seemed natural. While they had hosted a Civil War reenactment with the Peninsula Artillery for many years, Cecky had an idea for something different: a festival featuring regional artists. She wrote up a business plan, but implementing it was daunting, she states. “I thought, how am I going to get people here? How am I going to do this by myself?” At the time, Jerry was serving on the board of the Tidewater Resource Conservation and Development Council (Tidewater RC&D). The coordinator of the RC&D suggested forming a committee of locals to help with planning and implementation, and Locust Grove’s first Wine and Arts Festival took place in 2005. “They were instrumental in helping us get things started, and in helping us stay on track the first three years,” Jerry says.

In 2010 the Walkers added another event, the Upstairs Downstairs All Around the House Art Show. The show features work (and food) by local artists in the farm’s 18th-century residence. “Each room is a gallery, and each artist brings a plate of hors d’oeuvres. There’s hot apple cider, too, so people get a bit to eat, a bit to drink, and then they can go buy local artwork,” Cecky explains.

Finally, last year they replaced the Civil War Reenactment with a more inclusive look at America’s past, A “Walk Through History.” The Walk takes guests on paths through the wooded portion of the property and past stations representing different eras of American history, from the First Peoples to the Vietnam War. “In between, we’ve got the forger and the furniture maker, activities with old school supplies and vintage games, even knot tying,” Cecky says. “It’s stuff that really interests the kids, so this year we held it on a Friday and a Saturday. School groups came on Friday and they really loved it. Some of the kids were asking me, ‘Can we come back tomorrow?’ I said ‘Yes, and bring your parents!’” She adds that one little girl came back with her grandfather, who drove two hours to meet her. “She wanted him to see what she’d learned the day before. “So I guess we must be doing something right,” says Cecky.

The Walkers protected all 634 acres of Locust Grove with an open-space easement donated to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation in 2013. Jerry says that the easement makes sense considering the public and private uses of the property. “We were already doing the events,” at the time they donated the easement, Jerry says. “We had been looking into conservation easements since 1981. But we were able to specify what we needed to do with VOF and it all kind of meshed.”

The 2024 Wine & Arts Festival at Locust Grove is happening on May 18th, visit

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