Summerdean, VA: Ease of herd movement is the number one reason Jimmy Callison fenced his cattle away from the river. “It used to take seven or eight people on four-wheelers and horses to get all these cows to the barn. Now, we can do that with just two people,” said Callison, a full-time farmer in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Callison installed two miles of fencing, three stream crossings and planted several hundred hardwood trees with help from the Headwaters Soil and Water Conservation District, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, the Virginia Department of Forestry, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Prior to the fencing project, the nearly one-hundred-acre field was one big pasture with a river flowing through it. When it was time to get the cows to the barn it took many people to get them there. Since there was nowhere to cross the river with four-wheelers or trucks the cows often out-maneuvered the farmer and his helpers, causing much consternation.

The fencing project included dividing up the field into four units for rotational grazing with three hardened crossings.

“We designed the project to help me get the cows into the barn. The fencing pattern makes a funnel shape towards the barn. It makes it so much easier now,” Callison said.

Callison’s project in the headwaters of the Shenandoah River is a sterling example of how improving the environment also improves the local economy. Many local businesses benefitted from the project. “I bought the posts and the wire for the fence and hired a contractor to install it,” Callison said. “I bought the gravel and hired another contractor to install the crossings and bought the trees and hired two contractors to plant the trees.”

While Callison paid for everything up front, the programs reimbursed most of the costs. “I could not have done it without technical assistance and funding from these programs,” Callison said. “Sure, the programs fund this to improve the river but it helps my farm and the economy as well.”

Bobby Whitescarver is owner of Whitescarver Natural Resources Management LLC, a private consulting business. Visit Bobby’s website,