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Thomas R. Davenport
Matthew T. Davenport

11324 Pearlstone Lane
Delaplane, VA 20144

540·592·3701 voice
540·592·3717 fax

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Thoughts on Farming:
Articles on Farming and the Ecology of Northern Virginia

8 Ways To Help Farmers
By Tom Davenport

Most people would like this area to continue to have a healthy agricultural economy. Here are suggestions for helping out.

1- Be aware that that pastoral setting of our area is based on a traditional economy of grazing animals – horses, sheep, and cows but mostly cows. Be kind and thoughtful to farmers with cows. They are not the enemies of the ozone layer or the cause of global warming. When there weren’t many cows centuries ago, there were millions of wild grazing animals on the plains of America and Africa producing methane just like modern cows. Cattle may not belong in the rain forests of Brazil, but they do belong on the rolling temperate pastures of Virginia. The alternative is lots of mowing and a waste of time, fuel, and good grass.

2- Don’t treat farmers like they are dopes on the one hand or the last of the Moheegans on the other hand. Today only a small percentage of the nation are farmers who make their living off the land. Although Fauquier and western Loundoun counties look rural, increasingly the population is suburban. Farmers and suburban people often have different ideas about what is the proper use of land. Each should try to understand the other's point of view.

3- Keep your fences up, especially along borders with active farmers and along roads which are used as lanes to move cattle. Both you and the farmer share that responsibility even though you don’t have any animals. That’s the law. The fence is the number one tool of a grazer.

4- Join with your neighbors to create grazing zones. If you live in one of those mini-estates areas with a few houses and lots of open acres, band together with your neighbors to create useful grazing land. Call your local agriculture extension agent (see list below) to get advice about this. It requires some old- fashioned neighborly cooperation– one of the good by-products of rural life and a common interest in land.
If you want to go one step closer to being a farmer yourself, here is a link to a discussion and spread sheet on leasing cows: http://www.ag.ndsu.nodak.edu/cow/lsmanews/11-10-99.htm

5- Don‘t think that letting your land grow up wild is more "natural" than farming or grazing your land. It will become a haven for very invasive, non-native, pest plants like autumn olive and multiflora rose that spread to land which is being farmed. On the other hand, don’t think that your place should look like a suburban lawn. Life needs a variety of habitats. When animals graze the grass is cropped irregularly. Fencerows grow up and provide havens for wild life. Before lawn mowers and weed eaters, this was the pastoral look.

6- During drought years it seems almost sinful to see large tracts of land being bush-hogged and the grass wasted when many farmers have no grass at all. Most people want farmers to make hay on their estates but are reluctant to let farmers graze them. But think about changing your mind and allowing grazing.

7- Contact your local Extension agent (see list below)
if you have land that could be farmed and want to find a farmer. But be aware that there are fewer and fewer farmers around and more people owning land who want land-use tax and don’t want to bush hog, so sometimes it will be difficult to find farmers to take on extra land unless you can lure them with good fences, and sharing costs for hay making or fertilization..

8- The land-use tax is probably the single most important thing that allows farmers to continue. Support it.

Our area
Virginia Extension Service grazing specialists are Cory Child 540-635-4549 and Gary Hornbaker 703-777-0373.