The largest ag project at Clermont in 2023-24 is the replacement of the large, two-story bank barn which burned in 2018.
Along with the spaces for animal management, birthing and care on the ground floor and hay storage on the second, we lost all the farm's major equipment, space for archaeological and architectural artifact storage, and our largest educational space. While we lost a spectacular example of an early-20th century bank barn, we hope to gain two modern one-story barns which, though smaller combined than the former barn, will be more suited to today's labor force and today's technology. As an historical agricultural site, the new animal barn will also have exhibits telling the story of agriculture in the Shenandoah Valley in the 19th and 20th centuries, based on the differences between the 1917 barn (and its corn crib of 1849) and the new replacement barns.
A secondary project was the work to renew with the USDA our original 15-year contract for best management practices ("bmp's") to improve stream water quality and our farm animals.
This involved renewing the "riparian buffer" or CREP (Conservation Reserve) along Dog Run (a tributary of the Shenandoah River), which crosses the entire farm for a distance of about one mile. This is a fenced enclosure at least 50 feet off each side of the creek with designated crossings. Renewal required the removal of extensive invasives (Tree of Heaven, Bradford Pears, Japanese Honeysuckle, Autumn Olive, etc.) and the planting of hundreds of native tree species that like water.
This provides a natural filter strip to catch run-off from the fields. It keeps farm animals out of the stream to prevent break down of the banks, stirred-up sediment in the water (killing off water flora and fauna), and manure pollution. It also actively improves wildlife habitat. We see American Mink along the stream, and the majority of the many species of birds at Clermont in the annual Christmas Bird Count are found along the stream. Dog Run is officially an "impaired stream", but Clermont is trying to do its part not just for the Chesapeake and the Shenandoah, but also for our local stream, the benefit of our farm animals, and of the overall ecosystem of the farm, including our large teaching colony of bees. For similar purposes, we also enclosed a wetland rising from a small spring near the farm's entrance. The Piedmont Environmental Council, the Shenandoah Valley Alliance, the USDA-Natural Resources and Conservation Service, and the Virginia Dept. of Forestry were major partners in this project. Our Fall Native Plant Sale (Sunday, October 8, 2023, see EVENTS) will highlight this project.