Every year conservation districts in West Virginia select cooperating farms to compete in the State Conservation Farm of the Year competition. Once selected, the district winners go on to compete at one of three area level contests. If the farm is selected as an area winner, they will go on to compete with the two other area winners for the opportunity to be named the West Virginia Conservation Farm of the Year.
This year, the districts selected several outstanding farms to showcase. The area farm tours took place throughout July and it appears as if the state judges are going to have some tough decisions to make.
The winner of the Area One Farm Tour is Swift Level Land and Cattle, located in Lewisburg, in the Greenbrier Valley Conservation District. The 159 acre farm is owned and operated by Jennifer “Tootie” Jones.
Jones’ current farming operation is weaned calves to finished steers. She does an excellent job of grassland management. Her farm is an example of what can be accomplished with proper grazing techniques as well as nutrient management, fencing and water development. She also has a genuine concern for the quality of water that leaves her farm.
Some of the best management practices Jones has implemented on her farm are non-chemical pest management, on farm composting of organic waste and 7,750 feet of pasture division and woodland exclusion fence.
Jones is also involved in her local agricultural community as President of the Greenbrier Valley Pasture Network and member of the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition. Jones has also conducted a children’s educational series for the past 16 years on the four seasons where she conducts pasture walks and woodland tours of the changing landscape and teaches participants how to best conserve their natural resources. She is also actively involved in the West Virginia Department of Agriculture Veterans to Ag Program.
The winner of the Area Two Farm Tour is the Kevin and RuLetta Minor Farm, located in Brooke County, in the Northern Panhandle Conservation District. Kevin and RuLetta run a cow / calf operation on 174 acres. Currently, they raise 45 head of cattle. The Minors have implemented numerous best management practices on the farm including four spring developments, 915 feet of pipeline and five watering facilities.
Kevin and RuLetta have worked diligently to correct resource concerns on their land as well as make improvements to the operation such as the installation of two animal feeding areas with waste storage facilities. With one look at their farm it is obvious they are great stewards of the land.
The winner of the Area Three Conservation Farm Tour is Butler Farms, located in Inwood, in the Eastern Panhandle Conservation District. The farm is owned and operated by Bill and Todd Butler. The 913 acre farm has three components: a cattle operation, an apple orchard and a sportsmen hunting operation.
Butler Farms has been in operation for 95 years. The farm has seen immense growth throughout the years – evolving from a sustainable farm for the family, to a dairy, to the diversified enterprise it is today.
Todd Butler, son of Bill Butler, is the fourth generation to farm this land. Some of the practices implemented on the farm include 7.5 miles of fence, two watering troughs and 500 feet of pipeline. The hunting operation was added in 2001 to further enhance the profitability of the farm while increasing natural wildlife habitat and conservation efforts.
The mission of the West Virginia Conservation Agency is to provide for and promote the protection and conservation of West Virginia’s soil, land, water and related resources for the health, safety and general welfare of the state’s citizens. For more information on the WV Conservation Agency, please go to www.wvcs.us.