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Dellingers' Two-Century Farm

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Noah Dellinger stands outside his Century Farm in Edinburg, one of 29 so designated farms in Shenandoah County. Courtesy Andy Thayer/Shenandoah County Historical Society

Family has lived on Edinburg property since Lord Fairfax issued land grant

By Kaitlin Mayhew -- kmayhew@nvdaily.com

EDINBURG -- More than 200 years after the original land for the Dellinger family farm was granted to his ancestors, Noah Dellinger still lives on the premises.

An event held at St. Paul's Heritage Center in Edinburg on Tuesday night celebrated the Dellinger family farm as one of 29 designated century-old farms in the county.

Christian Dellinger Sr. was given the original 400 acres in a land grant from Lord Fairfax in 1766.

The chimney of the original homestead still stands on the property, which is not 100 yards from the brick home where Dellinger currently lives.

He said he started working on the family farm "as soon as I was old enough to do something." And after sixth grade, he was working full time, along with his two brothers.
The farm, which is now 750 acres, is run mainly by Dellinger's nephew Charles, though the work is shared between his other two nephews, Richard and Gary, as well.

The brothers grow corn, barley and wheat in addition to producing beef from their herd of Angus-Hereford cross-breed cattle.

But Noah Dellinger remembers a time when the farm was also home to dairy cows and chickens.

"Things are changing. It's just unbelievable how much things have changed in my lifetime," he said.

He talked about how things have gotten more difficult for smaller farms, since food is produced on such a larger scale than when he was growing up.

"Everything is big business today," he said. "We used to [be considered] a middle-size farm. Now we are just a small farm."

Some changes, though, Dellinger said he thinks have been good ones.

"Charles is raising off of an acre what my brother and I raised off of two," he said. "Some of [the changes are] good."

Dellinger has been able to make a living off of his farm and said it is possible "if it's done right."

Just a few miles south of the Dellinger farm sits another, very different century-old farm belonging to Steven Baker.

Baker, who serves on the Shenandoah County board of supervisors, farms full time at the Mt. Jackson farm with the help of two employees.

The original 400 acres were granted to members of his family around the same time as the Dellingers.

Only 28 of those original acres ares still a part of Baker's operation today, and most of them are used as crop land rotated between corn, small grain and soybeans.

On more recently acquired land, Baker raises over 100 hogs and produces pork "raised the old-fashioned way, with fresh air and sunlight."

Baker echoed Dellinger's remarks about how tough it's become to maintain a small scale operation in a world of mammoth producers.

"We market [our pork] directly to farmers markets, small restaurants and small independents," he said. "That's about the only way small farmers can survive."

Baker has no children of his own, but hopes that someone, perhaps one of his nieces or nephews, may want to take up the family business in the years to come.

"I hope [they do,] that would be my goal. We'll see how it works out," he said.

However, he stressed that emerging onto the full-time farming scene is not always an easy route.

"First of all they've got to want it," he said. "This is not an easy job by any stretch of the imagination, but it's very rewarding."

The Baker family farm has been listed as a Virginia century-old farm for around four years.

"It's very humbling and it's a pride factor that we've kept [the farm] for that many years," he said.

The Virginia Century Farms Program is run by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. In order to achieve the designation, the farms must be in continuous operation by descendents of the original owner for 100 years or more.

Besides the 29 in Shenandoah County, there are 47 designated in Rockingham County, 13 each in Page and Frederick counties, five in Warren and four in Clarke County.

The Shenandoah County Heritage Society hosts events regularly throughout the year, focusing on varied topics regarding local history.

Barbara Adamson, president of the heritage society, said they may do more highlighting other century farms in the future.

"It's just another little window into the tradition of agriculture in the county," she said.

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