Ample Agricultural & Conservation Funding Available in Central Virginia

If you are a landowner in central Virginia, whether you own farmland, conservation land, or a small plot, you’ll be happy to know that there is ample funding to provide support for maintaining and improving your land. Read on to find out more about specific programs.

Virginia Trees for Clean Water

Trees help remove common pollutants from stormwater, therefore improving the water quality of runoff that enters the drainage system. Virginia Trees for Clean Water provides funds on a reimbursement basis to support the planting of trees in the Commonwealth for this purpose. There is, however, a 50/50 match requirement. Funding is available to private citizens, as well as to educational institutions, non-profit organizations, civic organizations, and local government. The deadline to apply is approaching quickly (February 16, 2017). The application instructions specify, “Winning proposals will demonstrate the merit of the project and how the trees will be maintained in perpetuity.” The program is funded by the USFS Chesapeake Watershed Forestry Program and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, and facilitated by the Virginia Department of Forestry.

Headwater Stream Initiative07 DSC_0016And2more

The Headwater Stream Initiative is a program facilitated by the Piedmont Environmental Council in partnership with Friends of the Rappahannock. If you own land in the upper Rappahannock River watershed—which includes all or parts of Madison, Culpeper, Rappahannock, Greene, Orange, and Fauquier counties—you may be eligible to receive free assistance and materials to plant native trees and shrubs along waterways on your property. This vegetation is known as a riparian buffer, which keeps the water cleaner, shades it from higher temperatures, reduces erosion, and improves the natural wildlife habitat. There is no deadline to participate. Simply sign up here.

RCPP Invasive Species Removal

In 2016, Blue Ridge PRISM (Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management) announced that the RCPP (Regional Conservation Partnership Program) had made funds available to help landowners of “nonindustrial private forestland and agricultural producers” remove invasive plants. Blue Ridge PRISM serves Albemarle, Greene, Madison, Nelson, Augusta, Clarke, Page, Rappahannock, Rockingham, and Warren counties. Only land located within one of those counties is eligible for funding. Blue Ridge PRISM’s original announcement has more information about what kinds of invasive species are eligible for removal. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, however, the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) may put deadlines in place to stagger applications according to “batching periods.” You can learn more here about eligibility and the application schedule.

USDA Farmers Market Promotion ProgramHiddenBarnDistance2_small

In September 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded a grant of almost $250,000 to the Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission through the Farmers Market Promotion Program in order to promote local agriculture in the northern Piedmont. The funds will be used in part to support marketing of the Madison County Farmers Market and Culpeper Farmers Market, as well as the Tween Rivers Trail—a self-guided tour that highlights the agricultural and artisanal goods of the area. You can read more about the locally awarded grant in The Daily Progress here.

Further Funding

You can also check out many other funding opportunities available through the Thomas Jefferson Soil & Water Conservation District.

 

 

Buying a Horse Farm in VA?

 

Admit it, you’ve dreamed about owning horses since you were a kid and buying a horse farm in VA! Or maybe you haven’t, but you’ve had to explain to your son or daughter why Santa can’t fit a pony in his sleigh. Or maybe you’ve come into more land than you know what to do with, and you want to start your very own horse farm. Regardless, we’re here to help! Central Virginia is a great place for horse farms; the sprawling pastures and rolling uplands are well-suited to the rigors of horse-rearing. And rigors there will be; it’s not the easiest thing to get into, but with a little hard work and careful planning, it can be a very fulfilling endeavor! So let’s get started!

Land

It may sound obvious, but it’s worth saying that land is one of the first and most important components of owning a horse farm. Indeed, the amount of land one needs to operate and maintain a horse farm is often underestimated. The Virginia Cooperative Extension recommends at least 2-3 acres of grazing land per horse, and that’s with good, efficient pasture management.

What exactly are you buying and what are you getting for your money? Obviously, the land you’re buying must be zoned for agricultural use. Are you looking into buying a pre-existing horse farm? If the land you’re considering was already used for horse farming, you can assume that zoning is in order, but the previous owners could have been grandfathered in, so always check.

And what about the existing infrastructure? Is there a barn? Are the horse-farming resources in good working condition? If you’re building your own infrastructure (like arena, stables, etc.) determine which way the water flows and avoid building in wet areas or areas where water settles. It would be wise to walk around the property after a heavy rain and identify the places where water collects. Remember not to get too attached to one plot. Sometimes it’s easier to start fresh than to renovate and repair.

Barn

Stable1280x960The barn is the central nervous system of any horse farm, so this is definitely an area in which you must invest money and careful consideration. If you’re building your own barn, avoid low-lying areas (like the bottom of a hill), because runoff from rain and snow can weaken your foundation. It helps to use the center of the barn to store supplies like food, hay, and bedding. Storing hay in the center where there are multiple points of entry helps with rotation.

Breathe. See how good that felt? Ventilation is one of, if not the most important consideration when it comes to the structure of a barn. You need fresh airflow, especially with horses urinating and defecating inside the barn, not to mention the fact that the bedding gets pretty dusty. It helps to have multiple entrances to the barn, at least one on either end.

Va Horse Farms for SaleThe commonly-accepted size for a horse stall is 12 square feet; big enough for a horse to lay down, stand, and turn around comfortably, but small enough to clean and maintain. Rubber mats are a good call for the floor of the barns. They make cleanup easier, and they’re more comfortable for the horses themselves. If you’re going to install these, make sure you do it before the horses move in, so that the ground is still relatively even. Consider getting stall doors that open up on the top halves, or just an open stall with a stall guard. Wood or mesh work great.

It’s great to have automatic waterers but they also make it difficult to determine how much water your horse is drinking. Automatic waterers shave time off of your labor expenditure and you will guarantee that your horses have access to a consistent supply of fresh drinking water. If you opt for manual waterers/hydrants, make sure you take measures to prevent them from f reezingin the colder months. It’s nice to be able to access a feed bucket with ease, so consider a swing-out parcel with a bucket attached. Many people line the bottom of their feed buckets with metal, to prevent rodents.

So there you have some tips. Everyone has a different vision for her or his farm, and hopefully this little guide has helped you flesh out yours. There are few places better-suited to equestrian pursuits and horse farming than central Virginia! Contact us to have an experienced horse farm agent help you locate the horse farm or land that is best suited for your needs.

Apples in Charlottesville Virginia

Buying an Apple OrchardIt’s been a summer for the books, but as fall approaches, we’re looking forward to some of the season’s finer qualities. Autumn in central Virginia is glorious, all breezy hikes, turning leaves, and a general sense of idyllic serenity….and also, apples. Carter Mountain Orchard is one of the top destinations during this time of year, whether you’re a seasoned local or a newcomer. The hiking is perfect for families, and the orchard is brimming with activities like hayrides and Pick-Your-Own-Apples. The orchard boasts a panoramic, 360 degree view of Charlottesville and the surrounding mountains in all their azure glory. There’s nothing that ushers in autumn quite like drinking fresh hot apple cider and eating donuts at sunset while the sky is streaked with warm hues of pink and orange. All through September Carter Mountain Orchard have a Thursday Evening Sunset Series with dinner and live music. And there really are so many things you can do with the apples you take home…pies, ciders, stewed apples, applesauce, apple butter, caramel apples, fritters, turnovers, the list is endless.

I could go on…indeed, apples are probably my favorite topic other than real estate…but I digress. Carter Mountain itself is located on land south of Charlottesville, a few miles past Monticello, but it’s owned by Crown Orchard Company out of Covesville. The Chiles family has been in the orchard business since 1912, a career spanning four generations, seven orchards in central Virginia, and a lot of people of varying ages getting their hands dirty. Crown Orchard Company provides wholesale quantities for much of the region, due in large part to a modernized, cutting-edge packing facility in Covesville augmented by a staff that works year-round. Land in central Virginia, with its rolling uplands and hilly pastures is a great candidate for orchard and vineyard cultivation anyway.

And it’s not a bad time to be in the apple business. The USDA is reporting a significant growth in U.S. fresh apple exports over the last few years, reflecting and responding to a shift in the levers of supply and demand. Most apples produced in the U.S. are used domestically, but demand for them is diminishing due to counter-seasonal competition which often comes in the form of imports. We’re talking grapes, berries, and stone-fruits which are in season around the same time as apples. At around the turn of the century, fruit production in the Southern Hemisphere (particularly Chile) began to expand, providing tropical fruits to American consumers whose choices were more limited in the winter months.

Domestic apple production outpaces domestic demand, and so there was an excess of product, particularly in Washington State, which churns out a significant chunk of U.S.-grown apples. This excess of supply has been leading to a huge amount of growth in annual export numbers…up from 607 million pounds in the 1980s to 2.3 billion pounds in 2014/2015. Half of the U.S. fresh apple exports go to Mexico, Canada, and India, with Mexico alone accounting for 25% of U.S. export market. The U.S. is now the third largest exporter of apples, behind Poland and China. Despite this, apples from the U.S. are ranked first globally overall, and reach a variety of markets in Southern Asia like Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines. Due to the changing markets, producers have focused their attention on new cultivars, such as Fuji, HoneyCrisp and Gala apples. It’s not a bad time to get into the business, especially if you have elevated land in central Virginia. (You will need to purchase propagated varieties as you cannot plant a seed and grow your own apple trees). Dwarfs and semidwarfs will start to bear fruit in 2-4 years, (around a bushel or two per year), and by the time you hit the 5-8 range, you could be reaping 4-5 bushels a year!

If you have longed to start your own orchard and are looking to buy a farm in Central Virginia, call or email Gayle, she’d love to talk with you!

 

 

Ferreira, Gustavo and Perez, Agnes. Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook: March 2016. USDA, Economic Research Service, March 2016