Sperryville column for Nov. 12

Fletcher, Jacquemin honored for conservation efforts

At the Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District’s recent evening celebration, held annually to honor the achievements of conservationists in the district’s five counties (Culpeper, Orange, Rappahannock, Greene and Madison), two Rappahannock men and their families were recognized for their accomplishments. They are people who champion our natural resources: John Jacquemin of Castleton Lakes and Bill Fletcher of Thornton Hill Farm.

Posing with Wildlife Habitat Award winner Bill Fletcher (second from left) are (from left) private lands biologist Justin Folks and CSWCD's Rappahannock director Monira Rifaat, board chair Lynn Graves and Rappahannock director Evelyn Kerr.Richard Jacobs
Posing with Wildlife Habitat Award winner Bill Fletcher (second from left) are (from left) private lands biologist Justin Folks and CSWCD’s Rappahannock director Monira Rifaat, board chair Lynn Graves and Rappahannock director Evelyn Kerr.

Bill received the 2015 Wildlife Habitat Conservation Award and John the 2015 Bay Friendly Farm Award for Rappahannock County. The latter is a program which recognizes those who utilize practices designed to protect water quality and soil resources.

John has owned his farm in Castleton for 27 years, but only in recent times were cattle involved. He bought an additional chunk of land from the Cannon family, land already populated with Cannon livestock. Mike Cannon asked if John would be interested in continuing with the herd. John liked Mike’s philosophy of promoting grass-fed beef, without hormones or antibiotics, and advocacy of rotational grazing. So John agreed wholeheartedly to partner up and now enjoys and oversees 50 or so head of Black Angus cattle.

Bay Friendly Farm Award winner John Jacquemin (center) poses with (from left) Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Conservation District Coordinator Debbie Cross, CSWCD director Monira Rifaat, chair Lynn Graves and director Evelyn Kerr.Richard Jacobs
Bay Friendly Farm Award winner John Jacquemin (center) poses with (from left) Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Conservation District Coordinator Debbie Cross, CSWCD director Monira Rifaat, chair Lynn Graves and director Evelyn Kerr.

According to John, his family, three daughters and wife Tracie were all in favor of managing the herd. They are also environmentally conscientious. Indeed his youngest daughter, Marissa, intends to major in environmental science, and has been known to round up the cattle during a pasture rotation astride her trusty quarterhorse Rosa. Asked what prompted him to engage in the CSWCD program, he said he’d “heard about it, in talking to local farmers,” and knew the erosive damage to the river and creek banks was significant, not to mention watershed runoff and livestock excrement contaminating the water.

Programs administered by CSWCD offer subsidies or other assistance to farmers, allowing them to build fencing to cordon off the river beds and provide a buffer. John has put up more than a mile of fencing and hopes to plant warm-season grasses along the creek beds in hopes of attracting a quail population. He now has approximately 490 acres, most of which is in conservation easement, and the buffer zones add up to about four to five acres of unused pasture land, hence his thoughts to plant warm-season grasses to encourage the return of the once-abundant game bird.

He tells me, with a twinkle in his eye, of his free-range Angus bull, appropriately named Don Giovanni; calves thus drop year round and the pastures don’t suffer a spring onslaught of little ones running amok, allowing a pasture to enjoy a consistent and lighter usage, and time to breathe..

Bill Fletcher’s award has to do with his passion for quail, and his hope to encourage their return to his property. His efforts were recently profiled in Virginia Wildlife magazine. Bill and his son Jamie offer deer-hunting rights on the family property, a profitable endeavor, perhaps more so than managing cattle. The quail program, he says, is a “win-win for everyone.”

The program prevents the encroachment of dense fescue, which discourages quail, as they prefer to travel primarily by foot. Native plantings and warm-season grasses are planted, which not only attract quail but also deer, rabbits, songbirds, turkey and pollinators. After three years in the program, the quail are back. Bill’s wish is to create a game preserve. He feels strongly that this type of program promotes tourism, restricts growth and lets farmers afford to keep their land. According to Virginia Wildlife: “The quail have returned. Thanks to Bill’s passion for quail, he is creating a sanctuary that should spill over to nearby properties. His initiative is influencing others in the area to undertake habitat work, too. You don’t need 411 acres of habitat to help quail, but it sure doesn’t hurt.”

Congratulations to both of you for your successful endeavors and recognition by the Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District.

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