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CB Virtual Diary, Yancey


Peyton & Myra Yancey, Rockingham County

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April 5, 2011 ... The Journey Begins

For Peyton and Myra Yancey of Rockingham County, VA, conservation is not just  about protecting the Chesapeake Bay. It is the preservation of a family legacy dating back four generations.

The Yancey’s 225 acres of gently sloping land fronts three roads in the scenic Shenandoah Valley. The tract contains about 175 acres of open, farmable land. Though they currently rent out the property for beef cattle and poultry operations, the family still has strong ties to the land which was passed down through a land grant from the King of England to a family named Flook.

“Valentine Smith owned this property in the 1700’s and my dad said that was the start of Smith Creek,” says Peyton. 

“Peyton’s father knew that his son would try to preserve the farm for posterity,” adds Myra.

Though the family was careful not to overgraze the land, water quality began to degrade over the years with direct cattle access to the streams, pond and spring on the property. Harrisonburg Soil Conservation Technician Mike Phillips, a lifelong resident of the area, knew Myra from his school days when she served as his guidance counselor. He helped make a connection with the family who had not previously worked with NRCS.

“It’s nice having a bridge of trust in place,” says District Conservationist Cory Guilliams. “If farmers know and trust the individual they are working with, it makes them much more comfortable partnering with the government. If fact, they often ask us ‘How would you do this if it were your land?’ or ‘How would the government do it?’”

Phillips explains that the Yanceys saw the "writing on the wall” regarding water quality on their land and were interested in using a grazing system to better manage it. He outlined the planning process and paperwork involved and made sure they knew he would be there to help them through it.

On April 5, 2011, the Yanceys took the first step. They met with NRCS and partners from Farm Service Agency, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and the Shenandoah Valley Soil & Water Conservation District to stake out 21.6 acres of forested buffer under the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). They walked the area with their conservation team to confer about stake locations and project particulars, taking special care to make sure that these activities would also work well for the producer renting their land.

“I kept hearing about how agriculture was polluting the creek and thought we ought to look into this and see what we could do,” says Peyton. “If we don’t preserve the land and water, there won’t be anything left for our grandchildren.”

“We have always been good stewards, and we believe in this,” adds Myra. “We actually had to go into retirement savings to do this project.”

The Yanceys will install additional conservation practices under the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI) later this year or in early 2012. The plan includes cross fencing, stream crossings, and an alternative watering system to facilitate better pasture management and rotational grazing. Guilliams says the entire project is slated to be completed in the fall of 2012. 

September 13, 2011

District Conservationist Cory Guilliams and Soil Conservation Technician Mike Phillips met with the Yanceys and their contractors in late summer/early fall to lay out fencing, watering system, and stream crossings projects and obtain bids for the work. Guilliams is also working with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to have a clean-up day at the farm this fall to remove old fences and debris in preparation for practice installation.