restored by farmers
in the Conservation
use conservation tillage
of American cropland
in Conservation Reserve
program by U.S. farmers
Farming sticks with you. Craig and Nancy didn't set out to make farmers of their two kids. Thirty years ago, working the Virginia farm where Craig grew up, they simply thought it would be a good life for their young family.
"Evidently we instilled something," says Craig. "Our daughter now helps raise crops on an organic farm and our son is going toward the poultry end of veterinary medicine. I wouldn't have guessed five or six years ago that either one of the kids would be that involved."
Nancy calls farming "a glue to our family." She says, "We had great times working together. I think it has given strengths for them to build on as adults."
Craig adds, "In 2018, this will be a century farm in our family. So that's kind of a cool thing. We can carry on from generation to generation ... and keep the farm in the family."
Farming may have had a strong influence on their children, but the reverse is also true. Craig stresses how his kids have changed his view of farm ecology.
"Our kids really inspired me, especially to treat our soil better and respect nature more. My opinion of conservation, just being better stewards of the land, has done a complete 180 because of our kids. Not just our kids, but the world they live in now. We have to respect that."
"My opinion of conservation, just being better stewards of the land, has done a complete 180 because of our kids. Not just our kids, but the world they live in now. We have to respect that."
"You want these animals to live a great life, because they're giving their lives for all of us to live."
Part of their conservation effort has been to modernize, using new technology to improve animal habitat and health. Computer software and innovative ventilation systems have transformed climate control. Cellphone alerts keep Craig and Nancy updated on changes in their turkeys' environment. The innovations don't just make the work easier, they give the birds a better life.
The human-animal connection is important to Craig and Nancy. He praises her intuition about the turkeys. Nancy says, "You always have to be aware. Look at animals in their eyes and listen, use your senses to pick up on things that might be a little off. Anybody who's had children, you can look at your child's eyes and tell if they don't feel well, and it's kind of the same with little animals."
With their soil and water conservation efforts, recycling, waste management initiatives, and new computer software, both Craig and Nancy feel they've learned a lot they can share with their neighbors.
"I'm proud that we've done it here," says Craig, "but I want them to understand and be educated. And it's working, because a lot of our neighbors ... are now using conservation practices. If I did just a little part, I'm really proud of that."
Craig and Nancy now have even more to show their neighbors. A recent spring morning found them marveling over a big, new piece of art on one of their barns. It's a gift from the Shady Brook Farms® brand. The brand has partnered with world-renowned mural artists to thank some of its independent farmers for their dedication. The project is called "A More Beautiful Barn," and to hear Craig and Nancy tell it, that's certainly the result.
"We wanted it to tie in some way to conservation that is important to us," Craig says. "It's just turned out perfect."
"Beyond perfect," Nancy adds. "It's beyond our expectations."
The mural artist says he got a lot out of working with Craig and Nancy. "To give something to a community and leave something behind for the people to enjoy ... that's priceless," he says.
Both artist and farmers seem to have learned a lot from each other.
"That's the cool thing about farming," says Craig. "You can teach a lot of life lessons. And I've had a lot of good mentors myself."
"We plan to work 'til we're 80," says Nancy. "So we have a lot of work to do."