Bracketts Farm, a 440-acre grazing operation, lies in the heart of the Green Springs National Historic Landmark District in Louisa County, an area so steeped in the agricultural tradition that even the fertile soil is recognized as unique. In the center of the piedmont, the Green Springs National Historic District is composed of large family farms that are preserved and protected for their rural character. At the headwaters of the South Anna, Bracketts Farm represents the best of the traditions of true Virginia farming, a symbiotic relationship between caring for the land and reaping the bounty from the land.
With the history of Bracketts traced back to the late eighteenth century, the owners of the farm were prominent members of the community, representing the Commonwealth in the Civil War, serving on the first Board of Visitors at the University of Virginia, and acting on behalf of the citizens of Louisa County in the General Assembly. Throughout time and ownership, the one continuous aspect of Bracketts Farm was its status as a working farm. Today, the farm is owned and operated by the Elisabeth Aiken Nolting Charitable Foundation. The last private owner, Nolting, from whom the foundation gets its name, had no heirs. Her desire for the farm to remain a working agricultural operation was so great, that when Virginia Tech refused an offer of a donation of the land as an experimental farm, she created a foundation to run the farm as a model of sustainable agriculture and responsible land stewardship in the agricultural tradition. Nothing could be truer in describing the current operation at Bracketts.
One of the many goals of the foundation stated in its mission is “to operate as a working farm, while contributing practical and scientific knowledge about the viability of small scale farming.” Bracketts has a history with the Soil and Water Conservation District, from working to establish Multiflora Rose as living fencing through the Soil Conservation Service to the modern-day CREP program to establish riparian buffers. The current farmer, Irvin White, applies both his practical and scientific knowledge every day while managing his herd of cattle on the lush pastures. White came to the farm in 1996, fencing a few of the streams and the pond at the minimum buffer width possible. Over time, White has seen the benefit of the riparian buffer establishment and stream exclusion for both the land and his herd. In 2010, White and the E.A. Nolting Charitable Foundation moved forward with fencing all the waterways and supplementing existing buffers to the recommended 35 feet. To date, the more than four miles of streams that flow through Bracketts are protected with 26.6 acres of buffer set aside and more than 15,000 native hardwood trees planted. A pair of bald eagles fish regularly at the Nolting Pond. The fescue-free buffers are home to wild turkeys, a covey of quail (as enjoyed by this conservation specialist), and even ruffed grouse.
To read the entire story, see the Oct. 31 edition of The Central Virginian.