This is one in a series of articles about farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed who have implemented Best Management Practices (BMPs) to improve water quality and efficiency on their farms. As a result of these success stories, we're halfway to achieving the nutrient reductions needed to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its waters. View the rest of the series here.
At Delta Springs Farm near Harrisonburg, Virginia, three generations of the Horn family raise chickens, dairy replacement heifers, and beef cattle. Charles Horn and his wife Faye run the operation along with their son Chuck, his wife Jill, and grandchildren Joe and Olivia.
"In 1936 my grandfather owned 129 acres. They had a very diverse operation with just about everything—hogs, chickens, sheep, cattle, and horses," Charles explains. "Things are a lot different now. We are much more intense and have to farm a lot more acres to make things work. We are much more aware of our environment now too, and how our actions can affect people downstream."
For example, fences along waterways keep livestock from fouling streams. "All of our perennial streams are fenced so our cows don't have access to them," he says. "We used the soil and water programs to help us put in watering stations throughout the farm so we could rotate our livestock. Because of the way we constructed the fences it is much easier to get our cows into the barnyard now."
The fencing effort also includes neighboring farms along Freemason Run, a stream running though Delta Springs. All the farmers along the Run's entire six miles have fenced the streambanks, making the waterway livestock free and cleaner.
The Horns raise two million broiler chickens each year and grow all the roughage for their cattle including corn, hay, and small grain silage. They also use many Best Management Practices, including rotational grazing, cover crops, no-till farming, stream exclusion, nutrient management, and variable rate application of fertilizer. Much of their cropland is high in soil phosphorus so the farm is very limited in what manure and fertilizer they can apply. The Horns sell most of their poultry manure to areas in need of phosphorus.
"We are proud of the conservation practices we have installed on our farm," Charles says. "We could not have done it without the technical and financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Headwaters Soil and Water Conservation District."
Whitescarver lives in Swoope, Va. For more information, visit his website.