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Well done

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Members of the Virginia Water Well Association watch as drilling begins at the Woodstock Volunteer Farm on Friday for a new irrigation well. Labor and supplies for the new well were donated to the farm, which grows produce for area food banks. Rich Cooley/Daily

Donated irrigation system will help growers combat drought season

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- More digging than usual was going on at the Volunteer Farm on Friday.

Thanks to donated labor and supplies, the farm, which grows produce to distribute to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and the Capital Area Food Bank, will be able to use a well-fed drip irrigation system rather than irrigating from a lake on the farm.

The Virginia Water Well Association paid for the digging and installation. In March, the association will be back to install a pump and finish the job, said Taylor Hering, vice president of Cain Associates, which manages the association.

Just under 200 association members were at the Volunteer Farm on Friday to learn more about digging a well in karst topography, characterized by sinkholes, fissures and caves.

Hering said the observers spent time in a makeshift outdoor classroom in the morning learning about geology, and then started observing the drilling process. She said Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware were all represented.

"They will stop [drilling] every once in a while to explain any trouble they have had, any problems that come with drilling in karst," she said.

By late morning, the drill had gotten down about 160 feet, and casing was being run inside the hole, said VWWA President Eric Rorrer, of Christiansburg-based Rorrer Well Drilling Inc.
"Then, we're hoping to see some pretty significant yield of water," he said. "It's one of those [things,] you don't know until you get there.

"It's a great continuing education opportunity. At the same time, this is a fairly unique opportunity. We're hoping to provide a lot of water for the Volunteer Farm here, while we're providing a great deal of education to our members."

Manassas-based Northern Virginia Drilling Inc. was doing the work with an air rotary rig.
"That's what makes the association go -- volunteers, people donate," owner Jack Miller said.

The well and laborers were "a wonderful contribution to our effort," Volunteer Farm founder Bob Blair said.

"Drought kills us," he said. "We're planning on laying about 8,000 feet of pipe to every part of the farm. In the past, we've tried to irrigate from the lake. Overhead irrigation creates an awful lot of weeds. We will be going to a black plastic mulch with the drip irrigation system under that."

Chuck Jackson, the farm's development director, said the new well should help the operation increase its produce yield by about 60 percent. The need remains great, according to Blair.

"The number of people getting food through the system is growing so much," he said.
The two food banks distribute to about 800 food pantries and soup kitchens, Blair said.
"Whatever they get out of the food bank is canned goods, and what they need is fresh vegetables," he said. "We know that [children's] nutritional issues are immense in the sense that the obesity rate of kids getting food through the system is twice the norm ... so the more nutritious vegetables we can provide, the better."

Late Friday afternoon, Blair reported the drill hit a "pretty good patch of water" at 300 feet. It had a flow of about 20-25 gallons per minute.

"They went through several layers of rock and water and mud, and it felt like they could get more water if they go deeper, but at the same time, they could lose the whole thing if they got into a cave or whatever," Blair said. "They felt that this was a good well and enough water for us."

For more information about the Volunteer Farm, visit
www.worldfoundationforchildren.com, or call 459-3478.

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