Year Inducted: 2015
Mike and Susan Philips, owners of Valley View Farms in Harrisonburg, Va., were honored as a regional winner of the Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP) for outstanding stewardship practices implemented on their 310 acre property. The award, announced during the 2015 Cattle Industry Summer Conference, is issued to one winner from each of seven regions. This year’s regional winners will compete for the national ESAP award, which will be announced during the 25th anniversary celebration for the award in January 2016.
The award, which is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation, is presented to farmers and ranchers who demonstrate a commitment to protecting the farm and ranch land in their care.
“Mike and Susan Philips live and breathe agriculture and conservation. It is not a show, it is real. We nominated them for this award because he is not only a successful farmer and conservationist, but also dedicated servants, investing in people and the agricultural community,” said Jonathan Repair, president of the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council. “They are true caretakers of the land and outspoken advocates for American agriculture.”
“Our legacy will be that we took care of our cattle and always tried to do things the right way,” said Susan Phillips. “We feel that this land, these acres here are ours just for a short time. We are simply passing through and God has given us this to take care of and to bring it up to a better standard.”
Valley View Farms is located in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley within the Smith Creek Watershed, which has been listed as impaired. The Phillipses utilize nutrient management planning on their pastures and over-seed forages to improve pasture quality and quantity. They have also implemented a combination of herbaceous and forested riparian buffers to protect all the water features on the farm, including sensitive karst features such as sinkholes.
The Phillipses also work to institute the four key principles of soil health: maximize living roots, energize with diversity, keep soil covered, and minimize soil disturbance. They have worked to perfect these principles with their collaboration and experimentation with cover crop and grazing systems. All the work Mike and Susan have done on their farm and education-related events are done outside of work time, which makes his efforts more remarkable because Mike works as a technician for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service while also being committed to his farming operation.
“When you get to where you think you’re going to be, need to be, you’re always seeing how you can make improvements to be even better,” Mike said in explaining his commitment to continuous improvement.