Local family business uses celebration to lend a helping hand for the community

March 17, 2017              By Daniel Brammer

The inspiration for On Sunny Slope Farm came roughly five years ago, when the owner’s daughter wanted to have her dream wedding on their farm in Rockingham County. The land has been in the family since 1828, and it now operates as a scenic location for various events. “I enjoy what I do, and planning events is where I get my energy,” says Harry Jarrett, owner of On Sunny Slope Farm, “I can always see through the planning stages knowing how wonderful the celebrations will be.”

Considering its award-winning status as a licensed wedding and special events venue, Jarrett has taken great strides to ensure this family farm could provide more than just holy matrimony to the surrounding community. They have had enormous impact on many non-profit organizations in the area by hosting fundraisers, festivals, and other special events. “I’m a pastor, so funding non-profit organizations, benefitting the community, and doing good for simply good sake is one of my core values,” says Jarrett, who is also currently an interim pastor at Elk Run Church of the Brethren.

Realizing the amount of potential and amenities his farm had to offer, Jarrett was more than reluctant to begin reaching out to help. “I’ve always been involved in altruistic, non-profit things, so it was a natural part of what I wanted to do here,” he explains. His venue hosts 12 events annually for local non-profit organizations, including JMU SafeRides, New Creation, Bridgewater Historical Society, and more. All proceeds go towards the respective organization with no profit returning to On Sunny Slope Farm.

One of the biggest festivals they host is the annual Food Truck Festival coming this April. Every penny raised during the event helps to fund Open Doors, a homeless shelter operating in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. This fundraiser alone raises half of Open Doors’ annual budget at over $30,000 each year. Without the supporting efforts from volunteers, along with generous donations, Open Doors would cease to even exist. It is organizations in need that inspire Jarrett to roll up his sleeves and help make a difference.

“This event has allowed us to think less about getting the bills paid, and more about how we can grow and better serve our guests and their needs,” says Rachel Howdyshell. As Executive Director, Howdyshell witnesses first-hand how much impact the Food Truck Festival has on the organization and its efforts. Funding from the community is what makes Open Doors possible, so the people at On Sunny Slope Farm take every step necessary to provide the best experience they can offer. Jarret says, “I find great joy in helping others, especially in their time of need. My farm would almost be going to waste if I didn’t use it to support organizations like Open Doors.”

Open Doors began its efforts roughly ten years ago, in hopes of providing shelter and support for homeless individuals in Harrisonburg and Rockingham. Because of their non-profit status, they rely on the generous help offered by countless volunteers within the area. “I fell in love with the organization and became passionate about the work because I believe everyone deserves food and shelter,” says Howdyshell, who started as a volunteer in 2009.

Not only do they rely on volunteering individuals, but Open Doors reaches out to local churches and faith communities to be the hosting shelter for scheduled weeks. The two organizations team up to provide the necessary amenities, such as meals, bedding, toiletries, and volunteers, to serve the homeless individuals. Open Doors receives support from over 30 faith communities that offer shelters throughout Rockingham County.

Just last year, the shelter helped house 171 unique individuals, with an average of 29 guests every evening. To help manage and support these people, Open Doors had the help of over 1,300 shelter volunteers and over 55 different volunteer groups.

To help organize, Howdyshell relies on each shelter’s staff to have everything in place and ready for the arrival of those planning to use the shelter. Phil Kniss, pastor at Park View Methodist Church, tells us, “We often volunteer to host at least one or two weeks each year, and provide all the meals and volunteers necessary.” He also detailed that they provide overnight presence from staff, personally prepare the meals, and even transport linens for laundry. Along with providing shelter, Kniss says they include support of Open Doors in their annual budget as well.

When asked about Food Truck Festival, Howdyshell explained, “The event’s success draws from its ability to bring the community together to celebrate food, music and warm weather. Not only that, but also knowing the money is supporting such a great cause.” At last year’s festival, they had over 2,000 people attend, with 14 food trucks, three local bands, and 24 vendors. With all the moving pieces involved, both Howdyshell and Jarrett say their organizations begin planning for this event roughly nine months in advance each year.

Along with the thanks given to the volunteers and donors that support Open Doors, Howdyshell was also more than grateful for the support from On Sunny Slope Farm. “On Sunny Slope Farm was generous enough to donate their venue to us. Harry and his employees are great to work with and work hard to pull off a successful event year after year,” says Howdyshell. She sincerely appreciates their ability to treat Open Doors like family and help with the fight against homelessness.

Especially after seeing success in recent years, Jarrett is more than ready to see what the Food Truck Festival will bring this year. As he and his family prepare for this event, they are making every necessary adjustment to top previous years. Although there are still weddings to plan for the spring, Jarrett assures they will never fall short of providing Open Doors the festival they deserve.

At the end of the day, those at On Sunny Slope Farm want nothing less than to bring people together to celebrate and enjoy life. “This is more of a family-friendly, local farm that is big in its surroundings, but intimate in the sense of how we go about doing business,” says Jarrett. Whether its running their own business, or offering services to others, everyone is welcome in the Jarrett family when coming to the farm.

On Sunny Slope Farm Wins a WeddingWire Couples' Choice Award® 2015Harrisonburg’s Own On Sunny Slope Farm Wins a WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Award® 2015

Harrisonburg, Va – January 7, 2015 – WeddingWire, the nation’s leading online wedding marketplace, named On Sunny Slope Farm as a winner of the prestigious WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards® 2015 for Wedding Venues in Harrisonburg, Virginia!

The WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards® 2015 recognizes the top five percent of wedding professionals in the WeddingWire Network who demonstrate excellence in quality, service, responsiveness and professionalism. The esteemed awards are given to the top local wedding vendors in more than 20 service categories, from wedding venues to wedding photographers, based on their professional achievements from the previous year.

While many industry award winners are selected by the host organization, the WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards® winners are determined solely based on reviews from real newlyweds and their experiences working with On Sunny Slope Farm. Award-winning vendors are distinguished for the quality, quantity, consistency and timeliness of the reviews they have received from their past clients.

“It’s always exciting to start the year by honoring the top-rated wedding professionals within the WeddingWire Network who represent more than two million reviews on our website,” said Timothy Chi, CEO, WeddingWire. “Each of the businesses recognized are committed to quality, professionalism and all around top-notch service. We applaud On Sunny Slope Farm for their impressive achievements within the wedding industry.”

As a Couples’ Choice Awards® winner, On Sunny Slope Farm is highlighted within the WeddingWire Network, which is comprised of more than 200,000 wedding professionals throughout North America and abroad.

On Sunny Slope Farm is proud to be one of the top Wedding Venues in Virginia in the WeddingWire Network, which includes leading wedding sites such as WeddingWire, Project Wedding, Brides.com, Martha Stewart Weddings, and Weddingbee. We would like to thank our past clients for taking the time to review our business on WeddingWire. We value all of our clients and truly appreciate the positive feedback that helped us earn the WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards® 2015.

For more information about On Sunny Slope Farm, please visit our WeddingWire Storefront.

To learn more about the Couple’s Choice Awards®, please visit Couples Choice Awards.

About WeddingWire

WeddingWire, the leading technology company serving the $100 billion wedding and events industry, is the largest online vertical marketplace connecting engaged couples with event professionals. With more than two million consumer reviews, it is the industry leader in consumer reviews. The site enables engaged couples to search, compare and book from an extensive database of more than 200,000 recently reviewed event professionals, from venues to photographers. WeddingWire provides event professionals with the technology they need to serve their clients, including a SaaS platform, which powers advertising, marketing, and CRM needs of local wedding and events businesses nationwide.

I am excited to announce that we have new barn doors on both ends of the tent! With these doors and the tent sides that are included in all rentals, we are able to completely enclose the 40 x 120′ tent  area for your receptions, ceremonies, parties or special events.

In addition, this allows you to air-condition the tent in hot weather and heat it in cold weather.  Now you and all your guests can be comfortable in any season.

What is exciting about this is that we are able to completely open or close the tent reception area in a very short amount of time. So regardless of the weather we can keep you and your guests comfortable!


Sunny Slope Farm Open For New Business

Local Location Serving As Special Event Venue

Posted: November 12, 2013 in Shenandoah Journal


Jennifer Dayton and Ben Moyers were married at Sunny Slope Farm in June 2013. The farm, which has been in the Wampler family for generations, recently opened as a special-events venue. (Photo by Courtesy Photo)

During the early months of 2011, Harrisonburg native Sarah Jarrett was a bundle of emotions.

On one hand, she felt excited about being engaged to her fiancé, Jeremy Whitmore. On the other hand, she was both nervous and anxious about the fact that she had nearly 300 family and friends hoping to attend her summer wedding — a number in excess of most local venues’ capacities.

Then, one day while visiting her father, Harry Jarrett Jr., at Sunny Slope Farm — the place she called home her entire life — an idea began to take root.

She knew that Sunny Slope Farm was large — 67 acres to be exact. She knew that it was a venue with beautiful scenery. She also knew that her father is a very organized and savvy man who would be ideal to run an event as significant as a wedding. That is when she came up with the idea to have her wedding held at Sunny Slope Farm.

“I knew [Sunny Slope Farm] would be an awesome place to get married,” says Sarah. “There’s a 360 degree view where you can see everything — that’s part of the reason I wanted to get married there.”

In June 2011, Sarah Jarrett became Sarah Whitmore on a day that she describes as “perfect.”

A Rich Tradition

Harry Jarrett Jr., owner and operator of Sunny Slope Farm, currently lives on the land in an old white, two-level house that has weathered nearly two centuries.

“My great-great grandfather, John Wampler, bought this land back in 1828,” says Jarrett, as he points to the original deed, which hangs on the wall near the home’s entrance.

“Then, my great grandfather, Charlie Wampler Sr., lived on the farm and his son, Charlie Jr. — my grandfather — was born right upstairs in this house.”

One of the distinguishing factors of Sunny Slope Farm is its rich tradition. In the early 20th century, Charlie Senior revolutionized the process of artificially inseminating, hatching and growing turkeys, which was a breakthrough achievement at the time.

Wampler’s achievement led to his spot in the American Poultry Hall of Fame and he is widely known as the father of the modern day turkey industry.

The 97-year-old Charlie Junior lives in a grey house on the farm and, on Nov. 12, he will celebrate his 75th marriage anniversary with his wife, Dot Jarrett, and a few close friends.

While the Wamplers will hold a modest celebration that day, Sunny Slope Farm, is capable of holding much bigger events.

An Added Dimension

Sunny Slope currently serves as a venue for weddings, along with a number of other celebrations, including quinceañeras, post-graduation parties and fundraiser events. Jarrett has a variety of roundtables and chairs, a dance floor and a 40-by-120 foot tent available for use. A dressing area and private bathroom is are available on site.

Following his daughter’s wedding, Jarrett says that he and a couple of other family members pondered the idea of turning Sunny Slope Farm into a business venue, given the available space. Jarrett ultimately decided that the idea was worth pursuing and he began to make the necessary moves in order to open the space to the public.

“We opened up for business Sept. 1 of this year,” says Jarrett, who is also an ordained pastor. “[Sunny Slope Farm] has hosted four or five weddings this year, and we’ve already got five booked for 2014.”

However, the process of formally adding this dimension to Sunny Slope Farm was not a simple one. Jarrett underwent an extensive process of working with the county in order to make sure everything was in order according to public regulations and ordinances, while still adhering to the integrity of the farm. This two-year process included attending public hearings in which public officials weighed the pros and cons that come with achieving this special-use permit.

Jarrett received the green light from the county earlier this year.

“[The county] decided that what I was going to be doing would not impact the character or agriculture of the farm, which is important to me,” says Jarrett. “I appreciated the process.”

A Magnificent View

One aspect that separates Sunny Slope Farm from other venues is the scenery, which is used as a backdrop for a given event. Atop the pad of the farm, where events are held, onlookers catch glimpses of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Massanutten Peak.

“The views here are incredible,” says Jarrett. “You can see Bridgewater and Dayton off in the distance. You can even see when people shoot fireworks. If fireworks are anywhere in the Valley, you can see them from here.”

While the setting may be picturesque, the service provided by Jarrett comes at a close second.

While serving as a pastor for more than 20 years, Jarrett has conducted a countless number of weddings and ceremonies, which, in turn, helped hone his ability to organize and achieve a successful event.

“Working with brides and hearing all of the stories about what can happen when working with vendors gave me a unique perspective,” explains Jarrett. “I try to offer as much as possible at a very reasonable price.

“I don’t believe couples should have to endure a huge amount of debt in order to have an absolutely wonderful, beautiful, and well-executed wedding.”

For more information about Sunny Slope Farm, visit onsunnyslopefarm.com or call (540) 830-5400.
Contact Matt Gonzales at (540) 574-6265 or mgonzales@dnronline.com.