The Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District offers numerous services to agricultural operations, both large and small. We offer conservation and nutrient management planning, financial assistance (Cost Share and Tax Credit) for conservation practices, seminars on natural resource and agricultural topics.
Alternative/Small Acreage Farming Series
Over the past couple of years, the District has begun to work with small acreage and non-traditional farmers in Prince William County. From sustainable subsistence farming to non-traditional livestock and crops, more of our residents are experimenting with alternative and/or small scale agriculture. Just in the past year we have seen small enterprises in wine grapes, hops, cut flowers, as well as heritage breed livestock, specifically Irish Dexter cattle, Cotton Patch geese, and Bourbon Red turkeys. Several landowners are practicing sustainable/organic farming methods. While some of these landowners are farming specifically for immediate family use, many currently are, or intend to, sell their products to meet growing demands for local, sustainable, organic, non-traditional, and heritage foods.
These residents are actualizing a growing national trend here in PWC. Economist and agriclutural experts from around the country are highlighting some alarming developments within traditional agriculture, such as, the aging of the current farming population, steep barriers for would-be young farmers who cannot afford land for traditional agriculture, and a looming shortage of migrant workers (Johnson 2012, NY). Alternative/small acreage farming offers a grassroots response to some of these trends, as well as providing benefits within their communities. These farm have flexibility, and a potential for efficiency and environmentally friendly practices, helping to diversify and protect soil and water resources.
In this series, we took a look at the diversity of our farming community by highlighting some of these farms. In the face of the county's demographics, land use, and development, such diversity within the county may become a vital resource in the future. If you are a small acreage/alternative farmer please let us know as we would be glad to help you with your farming practices and share your information with the public.
PowerPoint presentations of the recent workshops are available on youtube
. Subjects are: Pollinator Habitats, Woodlot Management, Deer Control, Holistic Management, Private Lands Habitat, and Backyard Habitat Creation and Certification. Give us a call if we can help.
Funding available for producers interested in improving the health and productivity of their land!
NRCS offers technical and financial assistance to address resource concerns on crop and grazing lands, protect wildlife habitat, and keep land in agricultural production. Farmers may sign up for conservation programs throughout the year, but funding selections are made at specific times for the following programs:
Environmental Quality Incentives Program
(EQIP) is the most robust offering with many Virginia producers, featuring soil health practices such as cover crops, crop rotation, nutrient management, and rotational grazing as well as payment options for farmers to develop plans to better manage their resources. These conservation activity plans can help producers better manage animal waste, grazing lands, fish and wildlife habitat, pollinator habitat, and energy consumption. Producers who grow nursery stock, vegetables and speciality crops may be interested in developing an irrigation water management plan to be eligible for our new micro-irrigation practices.
Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program
(WHIP) NRCS can provide funding to create upland wildlife and aquatic habitats along with helping producers maintain or improve existing habitat. This assistance also includes special incentives focused on restoring Longleaf pine forests and reversing the decline of the threatened Golden-Winged Warbler.
For more information on Farm Bill programs, to develop a program, identify recommended practes and pursue funding through one of many programs available contact Roger Flint, NRCS District Conservationist for Prince William County at 540.347.3120 ext. 3 or email email@example.com.
Conservation Tillage: An Ecological and Economical Investment
Ten reasons to consider Conservation Tillage as your method of planting.
There are three types of tillage used in modern agriculture: conventional-till, reduced-till, and no-till/strip-till. While all three are used in current agricultural practices with varying impact to the soil health, only reduced-till and no-till/strip till are considered to be conservation tillage practices that positively affect soil health
Conservation tillage practices help promote soil health by leaving 30% or more organic material from previous crops on the soil surface after planting is complete. Conventional tillage on the other hand, inverts the soil, incorporating most of the organic material below the surface. This process if very labor intensive, disturbs or eliminates many of the beneficial soil microbes, reduces the water holding capacity of the soil, and leaves the surface exposed for a high potential of erosion from wind and rain. Both ecologically and economically, conventional tillage is no longer a viable method of agriculture.
According to the Conservation Technology Information Center the top ten benefits of conservation tillage are:
Reduces labor, saves time - As little as one trip for planting, compared to two or more tillage operations, means fewer labor hours to pay, and/or more acres to farm. For instance on 500 acres the time savings can be as much as 225 hours per year. that's almost four 60-hour weeks.
*Reduces machinery wear
*Improves soil tilth
*Increases organic matter
*Traps soil moisture to improve water availability
*Reduces soil erosion
*Improves water quality
*Improves air quality
The District staff provides technical assistance to agriculturally zoned landowners and environmental science and natural resources conservation education to all citizens of Prince William County. If you have a land or water question give us a call 571.379.7514.
A message from Jay Yankey, District Manager
We encourage all agriculturally zoned property owners with crop or livestock to consider the benefits of receiving a Water Quality Conservation Plan.
A conservation plan can help direct landowners in making good management decisions that can increase animal health, profitability, and the aesthetics of their property, while protecting natural resources. The Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act and County Code requires that all agricultural lands in Prince William County have a conservation plan. The Conservation District is tasked to write these plans, free of charge. Mike Miller, Nicole Slazinski and I will be actively engaging farmers and landowners who do not have conservation plans to offer our plan writing services. For farms that already have a conservation plan we will revise/update your plan if it is over three years old, or if you have significantly changed your operation. We would be happy to schedule a visit with you at your convenience and we look forward to working with you in the coming months.
*Your conservation plan helps guide you in proper fertilization amounts and timing for the best outcome
*We take soil samples so you know the exact nutrient requirements for your land
*We will provide you with advice and tips to help you limit nutrients in manure and mud from polluting the local waterways
*We will give you information on weed and pest management methods to optimize your production
*Your plan is written specifically for your land. We don't write cookie cutter plans because one size does not fit all. All plans are detailed to each producer's goals with consideration of your economic and time constraints
*You will receive aerial, field, topography, soils, soils productivity, hydrology, and watershed maps
*You will receive recommendations for Best Management Practices specific to your goals and needs
You can receive a FREE conservation plan written explicitly for your property which will cover grass/crop production, livestock, nutrient management, pest management and other topics. Call us for an appointment 571.379.7514.
Virginia Pollution Abatement (VPA)
State agencies are conducting farm asessments to avoid issuing VPA permits. In an effort to meet new federal requirements and keep smaller farmers from having to obtain VPA permits, the Virginia Departments of Environmental Quality and Agriculture have teamed up to conduct Virginia's Small Animal Feeding Operations (AFO) Evaluation and Assessment Strategy. This program has been designed to assess the more than 2,000 farms in Virginia that meet the definition of an "animal feeding operation" defined as an operation where animals (other than aquatic animals) are stabled or confined, and fed or maintained, for 45 days or more in any 12 month period, and crops, vegetations, forage growth or post-harvest residues are not sustained in the normal growing season over any portion of the facility.
Producers who have been identified by various means who do not currently have a VPA permit, but are believed to possibly meet the AFO criteria are being notified via letter about participating in this process. The first step in the assessment process is a survey to be filled out by the farmer. From this survey, if it is determined that the operation meets the criteria of an AFO, the farmer will be asked to allow an inspection to be conducted by DEQ or VDACS staff. If water quality concerns are identified the producer will be directed to available existing voluntary programs to address the concern. The entire program is voluntary. However, DEQ has indicated that if the program is not successful in evaluating and addressing water quality issues identified on these operations the Federal Government may require all livestock feeding operations, regardless of size, to obtain a VPA permit. More information is available on this link.
Johnsongrass is an invasive and aggressive plant, typically found in hay and crop fields. It can be toxic to cattle, can affect the productivity of farmland and choke out desirable crops. Learn All you Need to Know About Johnsongrass
: what it looks like, how did you get it, when/how does it grow,what is the best way of controlling it and chemical control.
Power Outage... be prepared for electrical outages on your farm.
Don't get caught unprepared for an extended power outage. This publication will steer you in the right direction: Farm Generator
, a Virginia Cooperative Extension publication.
The Benefits of Soil Sampling
Protect Water Quality from Agricultural Run-off
Agriculture in Prince William County and the Chesapeake Bay Act
Citizen's Action Directory for Water Quality
On Farm Composting
, published by Virginia Tech
Conservation Program and Financial Incentives
Use of Fill Dirt in Agricultural Operations
Selecting Summer Annual Grasses
Virginia Rainwater Harvesting Manual
Private Landowner Network
Virginia Cooperative Extension/Virginia Tech: Virginia Farm Business Management Livestock Budgets
USDA first edition of the National Organic Program (NOP
designed for those who own, manage, or certify organic operations. The handbook provides guidance about the NOP standards and instructions that outline best program practices and is intended to serve as a resource for the organic indiustry that will help participants comply with federal regulations.
Printed copies are availalbe through Standards Division, National Organic Program, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Room 2646-8 Ag Stop 0268, Washington DC 20250-0268 (202) 720-3252. Copies can be downloaded from the Internet
USDA Ag Census for Prince William County
Soil Nutrient Testing for Crop Production
Nutrient Management Planning
Fertilizing with Manure
Stockpiling for Winter Grazing in Drought Years: A Leap of Faith
For information about the safe and appropriate use of pesticides VCE Pest Management Guide
What are the requirements for a farm pond in Prince William County?
- NOT for stormwater management purposes
- Property zoned A-1
- Minimum number of acres of cropland shall not be less than 2 acres
- Stocking rate of livestock cannot exceed densities set in current County zoning ordinances
What steps do you take to install a farm pond in Prince William County?
Contact Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District for all the help you need to get you started. (See side bar for contact information.)
PWC Farm Pond Construction Guidelines
Pond Planning, Design, Construction
Pond Information Links:
Stocking Sportfish in Virginia Ponds: Methods and Commercial Supply Sources
Control Methods for Aquatic Plants in Ponds and Lakes
Pond Construction: Some Practical Considerations
Clearing Muddy Pond Waters
Triploid Grass Carp
We are your go-to folks for federal and state program information and contacts.
Support for Budding "Grass-Farmers" Cost Saving Opportunities through Services
Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation
Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance
Virginia Conservation Lands Database
Conservation Programs NRCS
Conservation of Private Grazing Land
Conservation Reserve Program
Conservation Reservre Enhancement Program
Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative
Conservation Technical Assistance
Environmental Quality Incentive Programs
Farm and Ranchland Protection Program
Virginia Organic Initiatives
Grassland Reserve Program
Resource Conservation and Development
State Technical Committees
Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program
Conservation Stewardship Program
Wetland Reserve Program
Agricultural Water Enhancement Program
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