Places to visit on one tank of gas: Aberdeen Farm in Smithfield

Colby Fairchild, a Virginia Beach native, is the executive chef and farm manager at this sprawling 1,000-acre estate, which features private beach access, hunting, hiking and even an oyster roast.

  • Aberdeen Farm in Smithfield, VA. Photo courtesy RocketBike

  • Aberdeen Farm in Smithfield, VA. Photo courtesy RocketBike

  • Aberdeen Farm in Smithfield, VA. Photo courtesy RocketBike

  • Aberdeen Farm in Smithfield, VA. Photo courtesy RocketBike

  • Aberdeen Farm in Smithfield, VA. Photo courtesy RocketBike

  • Aberdeen Farm in Smithfield, VA. Photo courtesy RocketBike

  • Aberdeen Farm in Smithfield, VA. Photo courtesy RocketBike

  • Aberdeen Farm in Smithfield, VA. Photo courtesy RocketBike

  • Aberdeen Farm in Smithfield, VA. Photo courtesy RocketBike

  • Aberdeen Farm in Smithfield, VA. Photo courtesy RocketBike

Editor’s note: No need for a plane ticket. Put that passport away. This story is part of a series that features regional attractions outside of the Virginia Beach area that can be driven to on a tank of gas or less. Buckle up and hit the road.  

After Colby Fairchild graduated from Johnson & Wales University in 2000, he spent many years fine-tuning his culinary craft while working for different upscale restaurants and catering companies in Virginia and the Carolinas.

Fairchild, a Virginia Beach native, started to thrive in the fast-paced world of the service industry and quickly became accustomed to the long hours spent in front of a flaming grill or hot stove.

These days, his work environment has expanded beyond the kitchen.

Aberdeen Farm executive chef and farm manager Colby Fairchild. Photo courtesy RocketBike
Aberdeen Farm executive chef and farm manager Colby Fairchild. Photo courtesy RocketBike

“I’m outside right now scouting spring gobbler,” Fairchild said early Tuesday morning as the sun was just starting to rise over Aberdeen Farm in Smithfield, VA.

“That hunting season starts in about two weeks. We have the best spring gobbler in the region and it’s important we get a feel for the land now so our guests will be well-prepared.”

Fairchild, 41, happens to be the executive chef at Aberdeen Farm but also added the role of farm manager to his resume in 2014. The avid outdoorsman has played an active role in transitioning this vast 1,000-acre property into the event venue it is today.

What we do here is definitely not your typical restaurant business — it’s so much more,” said Fairchild, who manages all aspects of the working farm while customizing and preparing most of the meals for their guests and events.

“We can host intimate groups, corporate events, weddings or just a few people that want to get away. We really go all out with our menus and incorporate stuff from our garden during the spring and summer. We also feature a lot of game hunts throughout the year.”

The sprawling estate, which is cradled by the James and Pagan rivers, also features two miles of private beach property. It once was the getaway weekend retreat destination for top executives for Smithfield Foods, Inc., an American meat processing company, which has its headquarters in Smithfield.

Now the property, which has been in the Luter family for many years, is open to the public for an array of activities. A steady flow of visitors from Virginia and the surrounding states have started to indulge in hunting, fishing, hiking, fine dining and some relaxation at the estate.

Aberdeen Farm is just a short ferry ride from Williamsburg and about an hour’s drive from the Virginia Beach oceanfront.

From Virginia Beach: Click here for driving directions

The property also features two comfortable lodging options, plenty of event venue space, 10 miles of hiking trails, water sports, a four-acre pond, an eight-acre fishing pond, sand volleyball court, horseshoe pits and even a private airstrip.

Aberdeen Farm has two miles of private beach property. Photos courtesy RocketBike
Aberdeen Farm has two miles of private beach property. Photos courtesy RocketBike

“We want our guests to make this special place their home during their stay — that’s important to us,” said Martha Russ, the event coordinator and booking agent at Aberdeen Farm.

“This is just a very unique property. We do book weddings but it’s not like we have one everyday. That is something we just started this past year.”

Russ spent 26 years as an executive assistant to the president and CEO at Smithfield Foods and then joined Aberdeen Farm after her retirement. The former schoolteacher is very detail oriented and has longstanding relationships with many local vendors.

She explained that many guests are just seeking some quiet time.

“Of course we have the Wifi and some televisions,” Fairchild said. “So we’re still in touch with reality.”

Whether it is a couple’s retreat for the weekend or a large-scale corporate event, the tranquility and privacy of the property is what guests keep coming back for.

“It’s a huge property with lots to do,” Russ explained. “But at the same time, we like it to stay very private. The barn is where guests stay and it’s a mile and a half off the main road so it can be very secluded and relaxing.”

But when it’s time to get lively, guests usually head to a large porch with outdoor firepits just outside of the Barn. It features a nice view of the James River and this is also the setting for Fairchild’s oyster roast.

“People do love his oyster roast,” Russ said.

Said Fairchild: “I like to use what’s around us — fresh and local oysters. In eastern Virginia, we have plenty of oysters or all different kinds. Right in front of the lodge, we pull fresh oysters out of the river everyday.”

Extra cookers are brought in for larger events and seaside oysters can be shipped in if that’s what the guests prefer, Fairchild said. During football season, he accompanies the seafood with babyback ribs and homemade chilli.

“I’m probably cooking oysters on the dock three times a week from October through February,” Fairchild said. “It’s one of my favorite times of the year.”

IF YOU GO: Check out the Aberdeen Farm website in advance of your trip to view availability for lodging, event and fine dining options along with the many venue amenities they offer.

A steady flow of visitors from Virginia and the surrounding states are coming to Aberdeen Farm for hunting, fishing, hiking, fine dining and some relaxation. Photo courtesy RocketBike
A steady flow of visitors from Virginia and the surrounding states are coming to Aberdeen Farm for hunting, fishing, hiking, fine dining and some relaxation. Photo courtesy RocketBike

For more information or to have your recent trip highlighted in our new travel section, please email travel editor Aaron Gray at aaron@localvoicemedia.com

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Local Voice Media’s travel editor Aaron Gray is an award-winning journalist and published author. He grew up in Herndon, Virginia and graduated from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in Specialized Media Arts & Design. He has won several Associated Press Sports Editors awards for breaking news and production design during his 13 years in the media industry. He has worked in Baltimore, Maryland; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE). He has visited more than 20 countries around the world and hopes to use his experience as a travel junkie to inspire, educate and entertain the loyal readers of Local Voice Media.