Keeping farms in the family

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 20, 2007

SEBRELL—Farms that have been in the family for 100 years or more may qualify for recognition under a state program.

The Virginia Century Farm Program was founded in 1997 after approval by the General Assembly, according to Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Marketing Development Manager Gail Moody Milteer.

&uot;The Commissioner of Agriculture established the Century Farm Program to honor farm families in Virginia whose property has been in the same family for 100 years or more and is still being cultivated,&uot; she said. VDACS sponsors the program.

&uot;In order to be eligible for recognition under the program, a farm must have been owned by the same family for at least 100 consecutive years, be lived on, or actually farmed by a descendant or the original owner, and gross over $2,500 annually from the sale of farm products.&uot;

Currently, Southampton County and Rockingham County have the same number of farms recognized under the program.

&uot;With the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown in May and Southampton County’s proximity to Jamestown, one would think that there we would have many more farms eligible for the program who have not been signed up,&uot; she said.

&uot;Farms that meet the qualifications receive a certificate signed by Commissioner Haymore and Governor Kaine and a metal sign that can be displayed at the farm entrance.&uot;

Farmer Bruce Phillips of Sebrell, who also serves on the Southampton County Farm Bureau board, a group that also advocates preserving the rural way of life, has volunteered to raise awareness about the program in the county.

He recently applied for the program for the two farms he and his wife, Gayle, owns, and received his signs on Thursday.

His great-grandfather, John I. Turner, owned the farm on which he and Gayle live. It dates back to at least 1900. River Farm, located between Sebrell and Joyner, dates back to 1903.

&uot;It was deeded to me by my mother, India W. Phillips, in the ’70s,&uot; he said.

The addition of these two farms brings Southampton up to 45 farms, the same number Rockingham has.

&uot;I was aware of the program previously, but I had never pursued it,&uot; said Phillips.

&uot;But, I think Southampton County is under a lot of pressure now for development, and I want to make people aware of the heritage, legacy and tradition we have here in the county.&uot;

Phillips said he knows there are other farms in the county that would qualify for the program.

&uot;If you live in an area, you know who has applied.&uot;

According to Milteer, being in the program is a way to honor ancestors for their &uot;diligence and hard work in farming the family land over the last 100 years.&uot;

She said, &uot;I encourage all families eligible for this program to apply.

&uot;Wouldn’t it be great if Southampton County had 100 farms in the Century Farm Program by the end of this year? It is quite an obtainable goal.&uot;

Phillips noted, &uot;I want Southampton County to be No. 1 for something that’s good. This documents the heritage that we want to pass on to other generations.&uot;

There are no fees to apply for recognition.

Forms, which list criteria, may be received by logging onto, or from the VDACS office in Franklin, 1100-120 Armory Dr. They may also be obtained at the Southampton County Farm Bureau office in Courtland, the Southampton County Historical Society, or from Phillips, 653-9629.