Demonstration horse farm focuses on protecting water quality

NOKESVILLE—A new demonstration horse farm in Prince William County is designed to show new farm owners and horse owners how to better protect their watersheds. "The Big Reveal" of the farm is set for June 11 at Oakwood Farm in Gainesville.

"What we were noticing in Prince William County was that our traditional farms were disappearing. We only have two dairies left, and the other farms were being subdivided into 10-acre farms, many of which were being used to house a few horses," said Kate Norris, Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District manager. New owners, she noted, typically work full time off the farm and do not have farming backgrounds.

"A lot of them are moving from homes with just a lawn, and now they had to care for 10 acres of land. So what we were seeing were a lot of farms had stocking rates that were too high, a lot of mud resulted, and they really lacked a nutrient management plan. And waterways weren’t being protected. The key things that we talk to horse people about are mud, manure and pasture management."

The Chesapeake Bay-Friendly Horse Farm project was born of the need to better demonstrate good conservation practices, Norris said. The PWSWCD received a $125,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, which it is matching with some of its own funds, staff and volunteer time. Some features of the demonstration farm are a gravel dust paved holding area, to reduce mud problems; manure storage to reduce nutrient runoff; and fencing along streams and waterways, with alternative water sources for the horses.

The demonstration farm also shows how making environmentally friendly changes can be affordable and make it easier for horse owners to do their daily chores, Norris said.

Tours of the privately owned farm can be arranged by calling Norris at 703-594-3621. The owners of the farm have agreed to share the results of their improvements with the conservation community and fellow horse owners.

Contact Norm Hyde, VFBF senior video producer, at 804-290-1146

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