Many Virginia farmers are already implementing soil health concepts and soil health management systems into their operations. These no-till farmers are helping to us spread the word about the benefits of soil health practices.
In the fight to keep their farms both sustainable and profitable, Virginia growers like Anthony Beery are taking a page from the sports playbook by going on the offensive with management systems that defend against opponents of soil health and productivity. For the Shenandoah Valley grower, these opponents were compaction and erosion. An extension workshop on compaction got Beery thinking and helped him start his own soil health playbook.
In 2003, Terry Ingram took over management of the Culpeper County farm where he was born and raised, and set out to convert his land into a 100 percent organic, grass-fed dairy farm. Since then, he says he's gotten much more in tune with feeding the soil and can actually see the return on that effort. Ingram has grass when other people don’t because healthy soil retains water so much better.
With the price of grain and fertilizer, Craig County grazier J.C. Winstead says good forage management has never been more important to cattlemen than it is today. He recognizes that healthy soil is better equipped to supply nutrients and moisture to forages, which factors directly into his bottom line at the end of the year.
In Virginia's Appalachian Mountains, Antoinette Goodrich has based her farm philosophy on a love of the land and nearby Holston River, and her desire to protect them. She tries to bring in a lot of diversity to her operation, raising chickens, ducks, turkeys, cows, pigs, lambs, goats, and sheep. Antoinette refers to her cows as tenders because they are such important workers on the farm, re-depositing unused nutrients back on the ground and stimulating plant growth.
Read more (PDF, 1.7MB).
View Common Ground (a new series of short films showcasing Annette's Laughing Water Farm and her conservation practices)
Much like the oral traditions of Native American peoples, farming knowledge and skills are often passed from one person to another. Justin D. "J.D." Hill has been both a mentor and mentee in managing his cow/calf operation with 90 brood cows in Carroll County, Virginia.
Though he came from a farming family, J.D. knew that he needed to become a student to realize his vision of a more productive and profitable business
that could support him in retirement. His operation encompasses 390 acres on four farms and five tracts, so he had a lot of ground to cover to make it more sustainable.