In 2021, the Alliance and Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association (MDVA) were awarded a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grant to help initiate a joint effort between the Alliance and MDVA, which takes a collaborative approach to incentivize dairy farmers in increasing on-farm conservation efforts across Virginia.

Join me in celebrating two MDVA farms that hosted over 70 volunteers this spring to install a total of approximately four acres of riparian buffer along local streams on their land and are implementing further on-farm conservation practices.

J Team Dairy- Orange, Virginia

J Team Dairy was established in 2002 by the Elgin family. They milk 220 cows, with a focus on strong herd genetics and high milk quality. The family farms 175 acres, growing crops including corn, rye, and triticale. The Elgin Family approaches farming with sustainability and animal comfort in mind.

On April 5th, 2023, J Team Dairy hosted 30 volunteers to plant approximately one acre of riparian buffer (or 220 trees) along a tributary of Potato Run within the Rappahannock River watershed. Implementing this buffer was a collaborative event with Culpepper SWCD, Friends of the Rappahannock, Piedmont Environmental Council, and the Virginia Department of Forestry, all working with the Alliance, MDVA, and J Team Dairy to make the planting possible. Volunteers and staff alike all enjoyed Moo Thru ice cream (made from the milk from Cool Lawn Farm) afterward in celebration.

With the buffer completed, the Elgin family looks forward to implementing additional conservation practices on their property with help from the Alliance, NRCS, and Culpepper SWCD. These projects include decommissioning a manure pit, installing a brand new manure pit, bedded pack barn, and animal walkways. All of these conservation practices will help in animal comfort, improve the farm’s environmental impacts, and reduce the amount of sediment and nutrients entering the Rappahannock River watershed.

A baby sitting next to a newly planted tree

Six-month-old Halle Elgin, who may one day be the 6th generation farmer at J-Team, sits next to a newly planted tree.

Cool Lawn Farm- Remington, Virginia

Recently celebrating its 50th anniversary of being a member of MDVA in 2020, Cool Lawn Farm manages 2500 acres and milk over 700 cattle on their property in Remington, Virginia. The Smith family prides itself on managing the farm with sustainability and herd health as top priorities.

On April 22nd, 2023, Cool Lawn Farm hosted 45 volunteers to plant approximately three acres of Riparian Buffer within the Rappahannock River watershed. The project installed over 800 hardwood tree species and was a collaborative effort with John Marshall SWCD, Friends of the Rappahannock, Piedmont Environmental Council, and Virginia Department of Forestry, all working with Alliance, MDVA, and Cool Lawn Farm to make the planting possible. Volunteers could taste Moo-Thru Ice Cream after planting occurred, thanks again to milk produced on the Smith’s own farm.

In addition to the forested riparian buffer, with the help of the Alliance, Cool Lawn Farm is currently constructing a winter feeding pad to reduce erosion and nutrients from entering local streams and the Rappahannock River watershed.

A person giving a demonstration to a group of volunteers

Kinner Ingram from the Virginia Department of Forestry demonstrating the proper way to plant a tree using a dibble bar

Bringing so many people together to help heal the Bay proves that it takes a team to make a change in our world. The Alliance would like to thank everyone involved in these two projects! This is just the beginning! We are currently working with over ten MDVA dairy farms across Virginia to help them continue to be stewards of the land and water in the Bay.