Our first meadow was planted in 2014 with the intention of increasing available habitat to wildlife, food for pollinators, and dedicated acreage for species native to our region to proliferate. Since that time, we have converted a total of 205 acres into native meadows. Species found within our meadows include a mix of native warm season grasses, beebalm, bergamot, coneflower, aster, and many more. A diverse array of species that we plant provides varying levels of nutrition sources for pollinators and shade, structure, habitat, and nesting ground for grassland birds.
These meadows are also home to many other indicator species that are important to our habitat and ecology including field mice, voles, bobcat, black bear, rabbits, red fox, eastern coyote, box turtle, groundhogs, mountain lion, and the occasional beaver passing through. Our meadows and native warm season grass fields are home to a broad spectrum of migratory birds that temporarily call Kinloch home including Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlark, Yellow-breasted chat, Grasshopper Sparrow, Kestrel, Blue Grosbeak, and many more. We work with our research partners at Virginia Working Landscapes, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, and The Clifton Institute, to continue to monitor our wildlife populations.
We utilize several methods of management within our meadows including prescribed fire, targeted mowing, and specific herbicide applications for non-native species. Fire provides a great reset and keeps our meadows in the young successional phase and prevents the encroachment of non-native woody species in our meadows. Each of these methods we think of as tools within our tool box of management strategies and we utilize them all, situationally, to achieve our goals.
The management of our native meadows differs from that of our Certified Naturally Grown grasslands and hay fields. We maintain strict boundaries between the two. In circumstances where any type of chemical has been used on a pasture, we wait 3 years before returning cattle to that ground or haying, which is what CNG requires of their growers and we strictly adhere to.
Through our partnership with the John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District, we have protected over 33,000 feet of stream banks and have 311 acres of riparian buffers. We’ve fenced our cattle out of our stream banks to protect not only manure from entering into our fresh water, but also to enhance the vegetation and ground cover in our riparian areas. Knowing that the freshwater that flows through Kinloch enters into the Chesapeake Bay, we are devoted to keeping our streams healthy and in a condition that supports an abundance of wildlife.
In our riparian areas, we also deliberately plant a variety of trees. They provide structure to our soil, shade and habitat for wildlife, limit stream bank erosion, and provide invasive species control. A tall canopy over our wetlands and waterways limits the spread of invasive species that can lead to a monoculture of Japanese Stiltgrass and Arthraxon, both of which love direct sunlight. We plant between 600-1,000 trees per year, focusing on our riparian areas. We mainly plant live stake willow cuttings, sycamore, persimmon, and hackberry which are species that thrive in wet conditions. We also tag and cage volunteer hardwoods using the theory of “if it wants to be, it shall be.”
Our apiary is a dual-purpose venture. The honeybees provide incredibly important pollination services for our native meadows, flowering hardwoods, and perennial pastures, while our honeybees provide us with the incredible fruits of their labor: their honey! Seasonally, they feast on tulip poplar, clover, and goldenrod, along with other flowering species within our native meadows and perennial pastures. The goals of our apiary are twofold: to have and propagate healthy bees for pollination and harvest honey when the season allows. Conditions are not always right for a honey harvest at the same time every year. We need to ensure that we are also leaving enough honey for the bees to consume overwinter, a delicate balance. We only take an excess so as not to deplete their stores. We currently have 22 hives spread across three different sites. We hope to increase that number to 50 hives in the coming years. Knowing that bees can travel 2 miles, we have each of our colonies spread to different sections of our farm to isolate and monitor hive performance.
The color and consistency of our honey will vary depending on when it was harvested and the specific colony it was harvested from. We stand by our claim of “Perfectly Raw Honey”, and we do not heat treat our honey, so crystallization becomes a possibility on the shelf. Our honey is currently available at our farm store, preorder for pickup, or at Nick’s Market and Deli in Marshall.
Research and Partnerships
Establishing and maintaining partnerships with agricultural, research, and conservation organizations is a significant component of our work. In many cases, our management is guided by the research that comes from our partner organizations. Collaboration is key to success and involving as many thought partners as we can only enhances our work. Current and past projects include:
Along with Virginia Working Landscapes, Kinloch is a host for annual orchid surveys. According to VWL, “Orchids are remarkably sensitive to environmental disturbance and, thus, ecologists often use their presence or absence as an indicator of the health of forest habitats.”