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Virginia Is for Lovers - and Silvopasture

Throughout his life, Chris Fields-Johnson has been keenly aware of the need to preserve the natural landscapes, which provide us with clean air to breathe, water to drink and food to eat. As a graduate student of soil science at Virginia State and Polytechnic University, a forestry undergraduate, a student of Tom Brown, Jr.’s Tracker School and a former employee of the Virginia Department of Forestry, he also knows much of the science behind soil restoration and forestry. These experiences have given him a strong desire to turn his knowledge into action by managing land in the most beneficial way possible.

To make this dream a reality, he began converting a 250-acre loblolly pine plantation in Scottsville, Virginia., into a goat and sheep silvopasture system that resembles a pine savanna landscape. Silvopasture combines trees with forage and livestock production. The trees are managed for high-value sawlogs and, at the same time, provide shade and shelter for livestock and forage, reducing livestock stress and sometimes improving forage quality. Fields-Johnson and friends have spent many weekends thinning and pruning trees by hand, conducting controlled burns, fighting invasive plants and experimenting with forage establishment while they also learn how to raise goats and sheep.

USDA Fosters Market Transparency in Grass Fed Lamb and Goat Industry

According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, there are over five million head of sheep and lambs in the United States, and over 2.6 million head of goats. A growing trend is producing these animals using grass fed production systems, especially for small to mid-sized producers.  

In response to the changing and widening marketplace, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service will begin releasing the National Monthly Grass Fed Lamb and Goat Meat report through their USDA Market News service today, Wednesday, May 13, 2015.  This is one of the first reports of its kind, filling a significant data gap for the industry and increasing transparency in the marketplace.

New Georgia Goat Farmer Finds Help Through USDA

The odds were against Beverly Robinson, but she isn’t one that gives in easily. She didn’t let her newness to farming discourage her from following her dream to raise goats.

“Animals have always been a part of our lives even growing up,” Robinson said. “I developed an innate love for animals, and when I retired, I wanted to go back to one of the things I loved, which was to raise animals.”

In the eight years since she retired as a campus president and moved to Soperton, Georgia to follow her dream, Robinson bought a home and 22 acres. She formed RobinsonHouse Farms, Inc. and began her journey as a goat farmer.

Goats Grazing for Fuels Reduction on the Cleveland National Forest

Recently, 1,400 goats reported for duty with the U.S. Forest Service. Their mission:  Lend their appetites to the removal of fuels buildup on the Cleveland National Forest.

The goats were a part of a 100-acre forest-thinning project that begin in late April to clear a 300-foot community fuel break area between  the San Vicente/Barona Mesa communities and the forest.