Farmers Use Conservation Methods to Help Water Quality

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) -- Farmers in the Shenandoah Valley are using different methods to try to keep water clean before it eventually feeds into the Chesapeake Bay.

The Arbogasts work with the Natural Resources Conservation Service along with the Department of Environmental Quality.

Both of those government agencies come to farms to take soil samples and also work with farmers to come up with a plan to keep nitrates out of the water.

Vegetation now covers the stream that runs through Arbogast Farms.

A year ago, it didn't have the chance to grow.

The Arbogasts said cattle had to walk through the stream to get to the barn.

"We've fenced that cattle away from that spring so they can't get into the water mainly for water quality and erosion control," said Brent Arbogast.

They have an electric fence, which is powered by solar energy.

It's one of a number of things they've added.

"In the past before we had the bridge, if we wanted to get the cattle over here they had to go through the creek, which made a mess. And now we have this bridge that's wide enough that we can run a whole bunch of cattle across it and their feet never get in the water," said Brent Arbogast.

When they started the project, they took a water sample from their spring house to test the water quality.

"It really wasn't all that bad but we just wanted a before and after," said Brent Arbogast.

In November, they'll take another sample to see how the sediment levels compare.

"I'm sure it'd have to be better," said Brent Arbogast.

The new cattle facility will also house everything inside, including a manure storage facility.

"This building is built so close to the stream that we designed it so no manure or any type of run off can get into the stream," said Brent Arbogast.

"Better water, which goes ultimately to the Chesapeake Bay," said Brent Arbogast.

Arbogast said one practice they are keeping up is recording amounts of poultry litter.

They store the litter here and then use it as fertilizer.

"We are regulated by the DEQ. They give us a plan of how many acres of poultry litter can be spread per acre per year and they come around every three years and take soil samples," said Brian Arbogast.

In addition to changes on their land, the Arbogasts help other farmers with similar projects with their company Precision Fence, LLC.

From adding fences to concrete entrance ways to stop erosion, they say they're just trying to do what they can.

"Farmers are very conscientious of the environment anyway and we're just trying to do our part as a farm family to have better quality water. You know and we just hope our neighbors downstream will practice the same practices we do," said Brent Arbogast.


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