Gary and Lynne Hess grew up as farm kids, 4-H and FFA'ers, and were fortunate to raise their family the same way. Lynne grew up in a little town called Calverton in northern Virginia surrounded by horses, cattle, and a huge garden. Gary grew up on the farm that he currently operates with his parents.
The home farm operation incorporates a diversified group of crops. There are two cow/calf operations, one purebred Hereford, and the other commercial. Most of the 240 acres is hay and pasture land. A 12,000 sq. ft greenhouse range is used for producing plants for the retail greenhouse operation Gary and Lynne have located just south of Harrisonburg called Hess Greenhouse.
Both Gary and Lynne have been active in farm organizations over the years. They were state advisors for the Virginia Jr. Hereford and Shorthorn associations and have served on the local petroleum cooperative board, fair board, as 4-H club leaders and countless other committees. It was during the time that daughter Cathy was showing her Hereford cattle that they were called upon to work with the State Fair of Virginia in developing a beef exhibit for the "Young McDonald'" barn. The need for providing a way to educate school children about agriculture and farm life became apparent in the 5 years that they set up displays and hosted 4th graders at the Virginia State fair.
When the fall festival that was held every fall at the retail greenhouse outgrew the facilities, Gary wanted to expand the activities at the farm with a corn maze and school field trips. In 2004, the first maze was cut and "Back Home On the Farm" was born. In 2010 the farm hosted over 5,000 school children from 9 nearby counties, as well as tourists who visited to enjoy the valley countryside and conquer the maze and 23 other activities. By the end of the season last year, over 20,000 visitors had passed through the maze.
In spring of 2007, the Hess family took a step in yet another direction when Gary returned home from an auction in Onancock to announce that he had bought the 30 horse carousel that his father wanted. Nancy and Nelson, Gary's parents, took on the responsibility of erecting a building that would house the carousel and some of the collections they had accumulated over the years of running a used furniture and antique business downtown called Hess Furniture. The carousel has been painstakingly researched and the 30 horses lovingly repainted to represent various Virginians and commodities. It is fully operational. There are displays of antique hand tools, indian artifacts, and antique toys. You'll also find a Hess truck collection, and Gary's collection of toy tractors.