At the Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District’s (CSWCD) annual awards dinner last month, two Rappahannock residents were among those honored for demonstrating leadership in the stewardship of local soil and water resources.
The 2016 Rappahannock County Bay Friendly Farm Award was given to Mike Sands of Bean Hollow Grassfed at Over Jordan Farm. The 2016 Wildlife Award was given to Bill Fannon of Rappahannock County’s Laurel Hill Farm.
The CSWCD awards presented were Educator of the Year, Forest Stewardship and Bay Friendly Farm Awards in each of the district’s five member counties, plus Conservationist of the Year and Wildlife Habitat. The Clean Water Farm Award Program recognizes Virginia that utilize practices designed to protect water quality and soil resources. Within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the program is known as the Bay-Friendly Farm Awards.
Bean Hollow Grassfed at Over Jordan Farm is located on the banks of the Jordan River, in the northwestern portion of Rappahannock County. The farm consists of just over 100 acres of highly managed pasture and 85 acres of forest. Bean Hollow Grassfed is the business end of the farm, run by Mike Sands, and the land, Over Jordan Farm, is owned by his in-laws, Bill and Linda Dietel. Sands has more than 30 years of experience in sustainable agriculture, environmental conservation, community-based economic development and has worked on a broad range of innovative projects around the world.
For the past several years, Mike has spent his time working on the farm and tending to the livestock. Bean Hollow Grassfed started with 100 Dorper ewes and 25 weaned Angus steers and now sustains 175 ewe/lamb pairs, 20 head of cattle and several goats and pigs.
Mike worked with the Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Culpeper SWCD to subdivide the farm into 11 paddocks, which are often split into smaller units for intensive grazing. Temporary polywire and water hydrants strategically located along a main walkway enable this highly managed system to work. The fields are grazed between one and four days, depending on the time of year. All the creeks and streams on the farm have been fenced to protect the water quality, with more than 4,800 feet of fencing built for this purpose. Another 2,700 feet of interior cross fence was built to allow for the rotational grazing system. For water, about 3,800 feet of pipeline was buried to support a spring development, two pressurized water troughs and eight hydrants.
The stream-exclusion fence created five acres of riparian and wetland buffers on the farm. In addition to these acres, another 2.5 acres of native warm season grasses and pollinator species were planted for bees, butterflies and birds. Mike has also planted strips of trees, nine species total, which will eventually provide shade and windbreak for the livestock.
At Laurel Hill Farm, wildlife award winner Bill Fannon’s best management practices include 170 acres of native grass meadow plantings; 90 acres of wildflower plantings (55,000-plus shrubs) and 17 acres of idled cropland. He has also installed bluebird boxes, waterfowl impoundments and wood duck nest boxes. He works with Virginia Working Landscapes to monitor songbirds and pollinators. All of his work is in the hopes to hear the call of the northern bobwhite quail on his farm again.
Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District’s mission is to promote the stewardship of soil and water and the conservation of our natural resources by educating and providing technical assistance to manage, protect and enhance the land and water for the benefit and enjoyment of the citizens of Culpeper, Greene, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock counties. Rappahannock is represented on the CSWCD board by directors Mike Peterson and Monira Rifaat and associate director Richard McNear.