With conservation, what goes around comes around at Meadow View Farm

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Two people stand on a farm.
Janet and Jeff Allen at Meadow View Farm, in Moundsville, West Virginia, Nov. 3. (Sarah Donaldson photo)

MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. — Jeff and Janet Allen aren’t shy about sharing what they’ve learned in their 30 years of running their beef cow/calf operation: Using conservation practices is good for woodlands, water and the environment as a whole. But it’s also good for the farmers.

The work the Allens do at Meadow View Farm includes testing soil and manure and applying fertilizer accordingly, rotational grazing and more. These practices allow them to grow more hay and grass, and, in turn, to raise more cattle on the same land. It takes money, time and effort. But they see the benefits on the other side.

“It’s better for everything, all the way around,” Jeff Allen said.

The Allens’ work hasn’t gone unnoticed. The West Virginia Conservation Awards Council recognized the Allens as the West Virginia Conservation Farm of the Year in 2021, for their work on their farm near Moundsville, West Virginia.

“They practice what we’ve been preaching for years,” said Katie Fitzsimmons, a Natural Resources Conservation Service district conservationist who has worked with the Allens since 2008. “If I have a farmer that says, ‘who can I talk to that’s actually done this’ … Jeff is the first person that comes to mind.”

Farm

The Allens have a couple of different markets for their cattle: 4-H and FFA projects, feeder calves, freezer beef. With some of the brood cows, the Allens have contracted with another farmer to do embryo transfers — the cows have embryos transferred in, they calve and the other farmer picks up the calves once they’re weaned.

They’ve been at the farm near Moundsville since about 2006, when they bought it after renting a different farm for about 15 years. Jeff Allen grew up showing cattle in 4-H, and his grandparents had a 300-acre beef farm a few miles away.

He also grew up just down the road from the farm they bought, and often helped out the farmer who owned it before. When the farmer was ready to sell the farm, he offered it to the Allens first.

Janet grew up in Moundsville, too, but didn’t have close family ties to farming. They met when Janet started taking clogging lessons at the same place Jeff helped out with teaching. The two of them both joined an exhibition team that performed at fairs and festivals in the area. Later on, Jeff introduced her to farming. He proposed to her in a barn one day, right after they got done cleaning it.

“I think I just fell in love with [farming] right off the bat,” Janet Allen said.

Cows eating in a pasture.
Beef cattle at Meadow View Farm, in Moundsville, West Virginia, Nov. 3. (Sarah Donaldson photo)

Conservation

Since they bought the farm in 2006, conservation has been a major focus for the Allens. Right away, they started talking to district supervisors with the NRCS to find out what programs and funding were available to help them use more conservation practices on the farm.

“We want to get the most out of what we own,” Jeff Allen explained.

There was a lot of work to do. Over the years, they’ve developed five new springs, put up about five miles of fencing to divide the fields into smaller pastures and keep the cattle out of woods. They’ve increased hay production from about 1.5 tons per acre to 3-3.5 tons per acre, by testing soil and manure and applying fertilizer and lime based on those tests.

“Jeff saw what needed to be done, he had a plan, he had a vision, and that vision has developed,” said Fitzsimmons. “I’m just really proud of them.”

Meadow View Farm started out with 25 cows, but by using rotational grazing, the Allens doubled the number of cows they can run in their pastures, now keeping about 45-50 brood cows. The increased hay production also means they can support that many through the winter.

Most years, the Allens get two cuttings of hay. Then, they stockpile their hay fields for a few months and move cattle into those fields to graze in the late fall. That extends the grazing season until Christmas, and sometimes even a week or two into January. Before they started doing that, Jeff Allen said, they had to start feeding hay around Thanksgiving.

They also added a winter feeding facility to feed hay in during the months where they can’t rely on grazing. That prevents cattle from tearing up a field around a hay feeder in the winter, allows them to clean the facility and store manure to use for fertilizer later on, and cuts down on the amount of hay they need to feed each winter by almost two bales per cow, since less is wasted.

Part of getting the springs set up was also making sure that any overflow went to existing ravines or creeks, instead of ending up in the fields, where cattle traffic could make a mess of it and contaminate the water. The water from the farm eventually ends up in the Ohio River, after traveling through smaller streams, so the Allens are conscientious about runoff and contamination.

A farm in West Virginia.
At Meadow View Farm, in Moundsville, West Virginia, Jeff and Janet Allen are focused on making the most of what they have through conservation practices. (Sarah Donaldson photo)

Plans

The Allens believe it’s important to talk to other farmers about the conservation programs available, and show them what they can do with their land, Janet Allen said. They’ve hosted field days and talked to other farmers about their conservation practices, and how those practices are working out for them.

Having farmers like the Allens, who can show other people the benefits of those practices on paper and in their fields, makes a big difference for educating other farmers, Fitzsimmons said.

“[Jeff] really sets a good example for the other farmers in the community,” she added.

West Virginia University Extension recently asked them to serve as mentors for a new and beginning farmers program.

“I’ll be tickled to death to sit down with someone and kind of go over … exactly what we’re doing,” Jeff Allen said.

Down the road, the Allens have a few more springs they are planning to set up, some frost seeding to do and one more field to split into two.

Self supporting

One thing the Allens are particularly proud of is that the farm is now self supporting.

“We had to take out several loans to do things, but the cattle make the money to pay the loans,” Jeff Allen said.

Both Jeff and Janet are recently retired; him from a job as a welder, and her from a job as a school cook. Since the farm can take care of itself as far as costs and revenue — they typically end up above the break-even point, which leaves room for unexpected expenses — they were able to retire and keep farming. That’s largely because of the conservation practices they’ve adopted.

“You can’t just farm it. You have to go out and take care of your land and everything for it all to come together,” Janet Allen said.

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1 COMMENT

  1. I thought maybe your readers would like to Do you know about Alpine Bank.
    On their front page they have a Colorado cattle drive through a town, and on there fairy tooth page they attack the Cattle rancher by stating we need to eat less meat cause cows cause 60% of the global warming problem.
    Nice smack in the face while taking your money to get high yeids in the holding hands crowd.

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