Every year the Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Directors selects one farm per member county to receive a State Clean Water Farm Award based on the farm’s accomplishments and commitment to land stewardship and conservation management. In addition, each year the Conservation District submits its nomination to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation for the next higher level award, the Grand River Basin Award. In 2020, the Goodall Family Farm in Madison County was selected for both awards. Senator Emmett Hanger and the Department of Conservation and Recreation traveled to Madison County to present the awards to the Goodall’s at their farm.
Joe and Paul Goodall are the 3rd generation of Goodall’s to operate their 600 acre farm. The first parcel of the farm was purchased by Joe and Paul’s grandfather in 1906. Their father, Culton, and mother, Christine, farmed the property until 1986. Culton continued to be involved in the farm until his passing right before his 106th birthday. At the age of 105, he signed up for the first project the farm would do through the District’s VA Best Management Practice (BMP) Cost-Share Program to exclude livestock from 8,645’ of streambank, establish an alternate water system for the cattle to drink from, and create 6.7 acres of riparian buffer.
Since 2017, the farm has installed 28,794’ of fence to exclude the cattle from all of the streams on the farm, creating nearly 80 acres of riparian buffer, as well as an alternative water system for the cattle to drink from consisting of one new well, 10,663’ of pipeline, and 12 frost-free troughs. They also installed 3 stream crossings and one heavy use area to protect the streambanks and prevent erosion where the cattle are rotated.
The buffers the Goodall’s have created are along the Robinson River and several of its tributaries that run through the farm. The farm is located within the Little Dark Run & Robinson River TMDL watershed which has previously been identified as having higher than expected levels of E. Coli bacteria. All of the buffers are a minimum of 35 feet wide on both sides of the streams with some areas that are several hundred feet wide.
Through the livestock stream exclusion fencing projects, the farm established a rotational grazing system. Prior to the stream fencing projects, the farm had a total of 7 fields for the livestock to graze, but 3 of those fields were not available for grazing year-round because they were also cut for hay to feed the cattle in the winter. Since completing the fencing projects, the farm now has 13 fields to rotate two groups of cattle which is improving the pasture quality significantly.
Senator Hanger recognized the Goodall’s efforts and achievements as a very impressive demonstration of what can be done working with both the Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District and the Virginia Department of Forestry and he thanked them for their work. He emphasized the importance of having such recognition programs in place and his efforts to support strong funding for state conservation programs and conservation districts that assist farmers with implementing BMPs.
Each of the tree plantings on the farm have been done through the District’s VA BMP Cost-Share Program, in coordination with the Department of Forestry and Friends of the Rappahannock. The Department of Forestry created a site specific planting plan and recommendations for each project, and the Friends of the Rappahannock coordinated groups of volunteer students to plant trees. Education was an important aspect of the tree planting projects for Joe and Paul. Their goal was to have as many students as possible be a part of the plantings so that they would have hands on experience, making a lasting impact on their understanding of conservation. Paul and his wife, Amy, are both professors at James Madison University and have had many of their students out to the farm to participate in their plantings.
Additionally, the family has and follows a Forest Stewardship Plan from the Department of Forestry and is enrolled in the VA Tree Program to manage and maintain the existing 160 acres of established forested land on the property. They have also placed a farmland easement on the property working with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Piedmont Environmental Council so that it remains in agriculture perpetually.
In recognition of the Goodall Family’s considerable efforts for conservation of natural resources, the Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District nominated the Goodall Family for the awards.