Sharing the Experience

For over thirty years, Jimmy Henshaw has been implementing Best Management Practices (BMPs) on his 500-acre cattle farm in Greene County. He started participating in cost-share programs after growing up watching his dad take conservation measures of his own, to keep his land healthy and productive.  


After witnessing the benefits of the practices on his own farm and after learning about the wide spectrum of options available to all types of landowners, Jimmy decided to spread the word. He has spoken to his neighbors about implementing practices ranging from wetland creation to improving stream fencing. He is not always welcomed by the positive attitude toward cost-share programs, and to those who receive him with friendly skepticism he says, “just try one field to start out with.”

  • Farm Size: Owns 138 acres and rents 362 acres in Greene County.
  • Type of Farm: 145 beef cattle with some land in hay production.
  • Conservation Practices: Stream fencing, a cattle crossing, nine gravity troughs and twenty pressurized troughs.


Best Management Practice: a voluntary farm installation that improves water quality.

Cattle Crossing: Hardened area to provide access across a stream for livestock and farm machinery. This improves water quality by controlling bank erosion and reducing sediment by providing a controlled crossing and stream access.

Gravity Troughs: Used on sloping pasture when it is possible to utilize an upslope spring or dam to flow into a downslope watering trough.

Pressurized Troughs: Watering trough that uses a pump system from an underground reservoir through a water line.

An Interview with Jimmy Henshaw

In the summer of 2010, PEC Fellow Sarah Brey interviewed Jimmy Henshaw about the Best Management Practices he uses on his farm. Here's what he had to say:

When did you start farming?
I first worked on a farm when I was in high school about a mile down the road from where I live now. Then, my brother and I started farming together.

How did you hear about Best Management Practices?
My father always would pick rocks up and use them in the gullies to trap sediment.  That was a best management practice on a small scale.  I guess I first heard about the government conservation programs around 1973.

What was the decision-making process like?
When my brother and I first started farming, we had to rent land and a lot of the land we rented was marginal land.  Two of the farms let us install BMPs so it helped us make use of the marginal land.

Were there key people who helped you make the decision to implement BMPs?
Actually, now I work for the Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District.  I am kind of an intermediary, and put the landowners I have who are interested in BMPs in contact with people at the right organizations.


How long does it take to implement BMPs, start to finish?
It depends on the scope of the project.  I have seen water lines that take just a few days and wetland restorations that can take much longer.

Since implementing your Best Mangement Practices, has the character of your land changed in any way as a result?
Part of the benefits of having these cross fences in is that I can allow part of the acres to rest and hopefully not graze it so short.  If I had a big field, they’d tend to just pick what is more palatable and keep working on that and kill it out so you end up with the rough stuff.

Are you considering any continuing practices after your contract retires? 
Most all of the farms where I no longer lease still renew the projects, some of them even do more.

How do you feel that your participation in these programs fits into the larger picture of things? 
I like to share about the practices with other people. You just have to try one field.  A lot of people, even people who are totally against it, once they try it, will decide they want to install a bunch more practices.

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