Elizabeth Obenshain received the 2018 Botetourt County Clean Water Farm Award from Mountain Castles Soil & Water Conservation District.
Obenshain co-owns the 188-acre Blue Ridge Hall Farm on Beckner Branch in the Mill Creek area, which has been in her family since the 1840s. With her brother Joe, Obenshain has completed two, one in 2014 and another in 2016, “Stream Exclusion with Grazing Land Management” conservation projects on the farm. The conservation practices featured the installation of over 12,000 feet of fence to exclude cattle from the stream, which divides the farm.
The fences also created a streamside buffer which helps protect the creek from sediment and animal waste. Beckner Branch is a tributary of Mill Creek, which flows to the James River and the Chesapeake Bay. As a result of these conservation practices, over one mile of Beckner Branch has been protected.
In addition, nearly 4,000 feet of cross fencing was built, creating a rotational grazing system for the cattle. The 10 new grazing paddocks contain a total of seven frost-free watering troughs which were connected by over 5,000 feet of pipeline to two different wells, one powered by a solar array. The grazing system allows grass to rest and recover as new paddocks are grazed.
Obenshain is no stranger to land conservation. She is a Governor-appointed member of the Board of Trustees for the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, which has protected more than 825,000 acres of open-space lands throughout Virginia.
Mountain Castles SWCD works with landowners to reduce water pollution in Botetourt County through technical assistance and cost-share programs.