Outstanding Conservation Farm Award: 4F &L Land Holdings, LLC, Shenandoah County
4F & L Land Holdings, owned by Charles French, brothers Millson French, Jr. and Stephen French, sister Susan Freakley, and brother-in-law Greg Lambert, operate a farm in Shenandoah County, where Charles’ son, Chuck, manages a beef cow-calf herd.
In 2014 they worked with the District and NRCS to exclude the cattle from both Narrow Passage Creek and an intermittent stream, as well as a pond on the property. They protected more than 7,500 feet of stream and created more than 80 acres of buffer by including the existing forest land in the fenced buffer areas. The family also worked with the Virginia Department of Forestry to develop a forest management plan for the property.
Our stream exclusion program requires a 35 foot wide buffer, but with flooding a concern on parts of the property the members of 4F & L worked with District and NRCS staff to create a project design that established buffers ranging from 50 feet to more than 200 feet wide. Greater buffer widths provide better protection of the streams through increased filtration of sediment and nutrients.
A combination of new and existing division fences, coupled with three water troughs distributed across the property, created a rotational grazing system that allows for better management of the cattle and forage. There is also a hardened stream crossing over Narrow Passage Creek to connect the pastures and facilitate even use of the entire pasture acreage. With that ability to concentrate the cattle and then move them, not only is the property used more efficiently, but nutrients are also distributed more evenly across the land. Chuck said that within a short time after the project was completed he already noticed an improvement in both the quantity and quality of the available forage as the herd is rotated over the 100 acres of pasture. In the two years since the project has been completed the buffers have become a robust and diverse successional habitat for wildlife.