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News Release

Drumhellers Receive State Award for Pastureland Conservation

Barbara Bowen
(804) 287-1679

Bobby Drumheller (left) inspects a pasture with his father, Charlie, at Bellvue Farm in Augusta CountyRichmond, VA, February 6, 2018 – Augusta farmers Charles and Robert Drumheller recently received the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council’s Outstanding Forage Producer of the Year award for exceptional pasture management and advocacy to promote sustainable grazing practices in their community and beyond.

The family has owned Bellvue Farm since the mid-1900s. Charles took over ownership from his father in 1988 and son Robert joined him in 2006. Over time, they have distinguished themselves as models of stewardship in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

Their commitment to sustainable agriculture is evident in their extensive conservation planning, which includes components for nutrient and forest management as well as prescribed grazing. Working closely with USDA NRCS and the Headwaters Soil & Water Conservation District, the Drumhellers have implemented numerous conservation practices and participated in demonstration projects to explore new ways of protecting natural resources on their land.

Charles began laying the groundwork for rotational grazing in the mid-1990s. Today, they have transitioned to a more intensive grazing system with approximately 248 grazing acres split into 21 paddocks for their 55 head cow/calf operation. Two paddocks, totalling about 29 acres, have been planted in warm season grasses and further divided with temporary fence to extend the grazing period during the summer months.

With NRCS financial assistance from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI), they installed an alternative watering system and excluded livestock from 100 percent of the streams on their land. They have also excluded livestock from an additional 37 acres of woodland and established approximately 62 acres of riparian buffer with CREP funding.

Looking to the future, father and son have protected 364 acres of farmland through an open-space easement with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and a Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) easement along the riparian area. Trees planted along the edges of several pasture fields have been established to pave the way for future forays into silvopasture.*

“The Drumhellers have not only done a great job in grazing and pasture management but have also been advocates for getting other landowners to implement similar practices on their land,” says Jeff Barr, Acting Area Resource Conservationist for the Shenandoah Valley, Northern Virginia, and northern Piedmont regions of Virginia. “Our most recent collaboration involved hosting a July 2017 workshop, Native Summer Forage for Beef and Bobs, to help us launch a new initiative that enables producers to establish warm season forages to support summer grazing and wildlife habitat simultaneously.”      

The farm is available for tours and educational events throughout the year. Robert, who also works as a Soil Conservationist in the NRCS Verona Office, has served as an instructor for the VFGC Grazing School on multiple occasions.

* Silvopasture is the intentional combination of trees, forage plants, and livestock as an integrated, intensively-managed system.