A Growing Legacy

Celebration Lauds Valley’s Century Farms

Posted: April 20, 2013

Wayne Pence, a Rockingham County Century Farm owner, talks about the Cross Keys farm his great-grandfather bought in 1856 during a Virginia Century Farms celebration Friday. The celebration was held at Gary and Eleanor Lohr’s family farm in Broadway. (Photos by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
Virginia Agriculture Commissioner Matt Lohr speaks during a celebration of Virginia’s Century Farms at his family farm in the Broadway area on Friday.
Matt Lohr, Virginia’s agriculture commissioner, speaks Friday at a Virginia Century Farms celebration on the family farm owned by his parents, Gary and Eleanor Lohr.
BROADWAY — Local farmer Wayne Pence has survived changing times in agriculture the same way the state’s ag commissioner has: with equal parts determination and flexibility.
 
Pence still lives on the same farm near Cross Keys that his great-grandfather purchased in 1856.
 
“[My grandson is] the sixth generation of Pences on that farm, and that means a lot to me,” he said.
 
The roughly 100 acres of land has served various agricultural purposes throughout the years. Pence’s father raised beef cattle and hogs on the farm before Pence produced dairy replacement heifers for about 25 years and raised sheep for two years.
 
The niche market he tapped into with the heifer business was lucrative at the time, but “technology has changed the market,” he said.
 
Although Pence no longer runs a farming operation himself due to obligations related to his other profession as a pastor, he rents out the land to a nearby farmer. And while the future of the farm is uncertain, Pence is sure of one thing: He wants to keep the land in agriculture.
 
“It’s important to us that the farm stay in farming,” he said. 
 
Pence was one of more than 30 Shenandoah Valley farmers who attended a celebration of Century Farms at Virginia Agriculture Commissioner Matt Lohr’s family farm in the Broadway area Friday.
 
Virginia Conservation Council, a Staunton-based nonprofit that works to conserve rural heritage throughout the state, sponsored the event.
 
The Virginia Century Farm program, operated by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, recognizes farms that have been owned by the same family for at least 100 years and are used primarily for farming. More than 1,200 such farms exist across the state, including more than 200 in the Valley.
 
“Even with our family farm, there’s a story of being able to adapt to change,” Lohr told the crowd.
 
He explained that some of his earliest memories involve his grandfather’s turkeys that were raised on the open range. Now, the family farm produces about 600,000 chickens per year inside four automated poultry houses.
 
The family also raises beef cattle and sells sweet corn and other vegetables at a street-side produce stand. The Lohrs operated a pick-your-own pumpkin patch and corn maze for years before calling it quits two years ago.
 
The family also sells cash crops, such as soybeans and barley.
 
Being innovative has been the key to the farm’s success, said Lohr’s mother, Eleanor, who was joined by her husband, Gary.
 
Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or csipos@dnronline.com



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