Eldon Farms is home to an impressive array of wildlife. Birds, insects, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals all grace us with regular appearances. We are mindful of the diverse ways their lives and our farm operations are interconnected, and we try to strike a sustainable balance.
One of our most popular recent programs involves monitoring and improving the local bird population, and we hope to install an Eastern Bluebird trail sometime later this year, as well as continue to offer birdwalks. We currently have 10 Barn Owl boxes, 20 Kestrel boxes, and plan to add boxes for Wood Duck nests at each of our ponds. The actively producing nests are responsibly improved, monitored, and tracked in order to maintain healthy populations and provide information for bird watching and conservation.
A very exciting discovery was made when we found a Bald Eagle nest on our property. For the safety of the nesting female, we don’t allow public access to this area, but are nonetheless quite humbled to enjoy the results of one of the greatest conservation success stories in history. The story of the bald eagle in America fuels both our hope and determination to continue our wildlife conservation efforts.
We hope to join in the butterfly and pollinator habitat revitalization efforts that are sweeping the country. The native Yellow Crownbeard (Verbena occidentalis) grows naturally on the farm, and we are mindful that it is a natural habitat that helps birds, butterflies, and bees thrive.
Pond habitats are also getting their fair share of attention around here. We have multiple areas that we are restoring to native habitats with the addition of both land and aquatic plants, as well as turtle logs. This makes the wood ducks, frogs, and turtles quite the happy campers.
We enjoy collaborating with local groups for educational purposes. We’ve teamed up with schools, non-profits, businesses, and other organizations to learn more about what nature has given us and how we can make a difference by being responsible stewards. We fully believe that this education will be an investment that turns rich profits when it comes to future conservation efforts. If you’re interested in teaming up with us, drop us a line here.
Water is arguably the most foundational aspect of conservation. If there is no water, there is no wildlife, and therefore no ecosystem to preserve. Eldon Farms is situated where the Piedmont meets the Blue Ridge, which makes us near the headwaters of several rivers that are formed in the Shenandoah National Park. These rivers travel through the Piedmont region on their way to the Chesapeake. The Hazel River and Thornton River wind through the farm, and there are several large tributaries that meet the Hughes River soon after they leave the farm. We take our responsibility for water conservation seriously and are constantly attempting to protect and preserve this resource.
As stewards of this land, we believe that we should find a responsible balance between water conservation and meeting the needs of the agricultural operation. One of our primary concerns is the degradation that stems from cattle using the creeks to drink. With hundreds of springs, small creeks, and gullies, it would be impossible to exclude all of them from cattle. Instead, our strategy has been to create drinking troughs for cattle by trapping water at higher elevations. This has two conservation purposes: 1) minimize pollution from cattle using the creeks, and 2) the trapped water provides wildlife sanctuaries for salamanders, frogs, wood ducks, and various other species. We believe there are ways to balance the vying demands of water conservation, wildlife habitat protection, and business revenue generation.
In the mid 20th century, it was rare to see a bear, turkey, or even deer in this area. Local conservation movements have drastically increased these species. Eldon has been heavily involved in these efforts by providing preserved, natural habitats, and by teaming up with the Virginia Department of Game in their Quality Deer Management initiatives. Managed hunting helps preserve a balanced, sustainable population and provides a way to preserve the local culture of hunting.