Seven Generations of Stewardship with Susan Watkins

When it comes to sustainability, it’s hard to argue with results. For Virginia farmer Susan Watkins that means seven generations and counting of stewarding highly productive farmland. In this episode we get to talk about that rich history and the soil health building practices that she is implementing on her operation. We talk to Susan about their legacy of caring for the soil, how they transitioned to no-till over 20 years ago, how they incorporated cover crops about 15 years ago, and what she’s looking forward to next.

“We farm Five Forks. So, Five Forks was pretty instrumental towards the end of the Civil War. And we actually farm on that original land too. The house is still standing. The owners of the house still have the portraits from their ancestors and it has slash marks through the portraits where the soldiers came in and slashed them. So yes, a lot of rich history here.”

Susan farms in Dinwiddie County along with her husband Maxwell and her son Cody. She grows soybeans, corn and wheat on about 3,500 acres. A lot of that ground is rented, but they still farm some of the original land that was granted by the king of England to the Watkins Family, at least seven generations ago. More recently though they have been exploring biological inputs on their operation alongside their no till practices and cover crops.

“We’re all farmers. We all want to preserve our lands and pass it along to our children if possible. And that’s the goal of everyone. But the margins are so slim. We have to be conscious of new technologies, new ideas and adapt to those. We can’t stay stuck in one era. We have to keep moving forward.”