How Farm Bill Conservation Funding Supports Pennsylvania Farmers: Valley Grassfed, Centre County, PA

11-18-2013 11-08-13 AMThis is one in a series of articles about farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed who have implemented Best Management Practices (BMPs) to improve water quality and efficiency on their farms. As a result of these success stories, we're halfway to achieving the nutrient reductions needed to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its waters. View the rest of the series here.

"Our business, Valley Grassfed, would not be in existence if it weren't for the implementation of these practices providing for lush pastured paddocks." That's the way Jenne Senator, Owner and Operations Manager of Valley Grassfed described the many conservation measures that she and her husband, Bob, recently implemented on their farm near Spring Mills, Pennsylvania.

The Senators raise 37 beef cattle, producing ten head yearly for market, and pride themselves on the quality of their beef. Their cattle feed only on lush pasture and hay. "Our animals are free of growth hormones, antibiotics, and all grains," said Jenne.

Bob and Jenne are conscious about more than just their cattle. They are also quite aware of the impact that farming has on the land, and have taken many steps to ensure their farm has minimal impacts on their local stream.

When they purchased the farm in 1984, they planted 75 percent of the land in crops using tillage, and pastured just 25 percent. Today, the Senators pasture 93 percent of the land, planting crops on only four acres. They utilize 50 acres for grazing. This has dramatically reduced erosion and runoff from their farm.

Funding and assistance from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Chesapeake Bay Foundation has allowed their dream of being able to grow and sell their own beef to become a reality.

The Senators have installed streambank fencing, a livestock crossing, and a watering system all of which control the herd's access to the stream, while providing them with a clean source of drinking water. The watering system has enabled them to create pastures that are grazed on a rotational basis. Bob and Jenne aren't afraid to get their hands dirty, and have planted more than 200 native trees and shrubs in their streamside buffer, doing the work themselves.

The Senators have also installed a grassed waterway, half an acre of pollinator habit, and have developed nutrient management and rotational grazing plans. USDA's Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative funded all of the farm improvement practices.

--Frank Rohrer
CBF Field Buffer Specialist

Ensure that people like the Senators are able to continue doing this good work on their farms. Tell Congress to protect conservation programs--that are critical to restoring the Bay--in the Farm Bill! 

Emmy Nicklin

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