County farm project earns statewide award

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County earned statewide kudos for turning its government-owned farm into a learning tool.

The 2015 Achievement Award presented by the Virginia Association of Counties recognizes model local government programs specific to the environment.

Robert A. “Bobby” Clark, unit coordinator for the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office, submitted the program to the association for its sustainable farming demonstration project at the Shenandoah County Farm in Maurertown. The program also involved the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District along with other agencies.

Clark thanked the count Board of Supervisors for its support of the project.

“We’re about three years in and the truth is we’re getting all the physical pieces in place and the real education is going to start in the future,” Clark said.

Clark plans to run an exhibit about the farm demonstration at this year’s Shenandoah County Fair. Clark said he also expects to hold classes on farm fencing this fall.

The county entered into a lease with local farmer Guy Gochenour in January 2013. The lease expires Dec. 31, 2022.

This marks the first time the county has received the association’s achievement award.

Jim Campbell, executive director for the association, presented the award to the Board of Supervisors and officials recently. Criteria to determine the winners of the award include: does the program offer an innovative solution to an issue or problem in the community; does the program promote cooperation among state and local governmental agencies; does the program provide a model that other governments can use; is the program based on public and private cooperation.

Campbell said the county’s program “did a tremendous job of establishing some intergovernmental cooperation.” He called the project an outstanding example of an initiative other counties could pursue.

As Campbell explained, the program showed what landowners can do to improve the quality of their land and agricultural production as well as to protect the water and natural resources of the county.

The County Farm covers approximately 160 acres. The county installed 10,000 feet of new fencing and 2,000 feet of underground pipes as well as two water troughs for livestock and 2.8 acres of grassed waterways.

Best management practices in place at the County Farm include the use of no-till technology, exclusion of livestock from waterways, a multi-year lease with the farmer and renovation of overgrown pasture.

Agriculture is the county’s single largest industry. The county is the fifth-largest agriculture-producing county in Virginia in terms of farm income. The county’s Comprehensive Plan calls for maintaining the community’s rural character as a part of an agricultural economy.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com