On Virginia’s Century Farms, the work may not look the same as it did 100 years ago, but the dedication to the land and the passion for farming does.
A state program established by the General Assembly in 1997 recognizes those properties in the official record, with 1,513 farms officially designated as Virginia Century Farms. Jennifer Perkins, coordinator of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Office of Farmland Preservation, said there are more farms that qualify.
“Agriculture is such an essential part of who we are as Virginians,” Perkins said. “If you’ve made it 100 years or more, it’s a huge accomplishment that ties into our history.”
After 121 years, members of the Butler family are still farming on Greenfields Farm in Isle of Wight County. John Thomas “Johnny” Butler Jr.’s great-grandfather started the 333-acre farm in 1900, using a grubbing hoe to clear the land. Today, the family uses modern machinery to grow corn, cotton, hay, peanuts, soybeans and wheat, and raise over 200 head of cattle.
The family read about the Century Farm program when it began, and applied for the designation when they were eligible in 2000. A sign is now proudly displayed at the farm entrance. The designation generated more interest in their farm. “They are usually in shock that our family has been here this long.”
An identical sign is posted at Spring Garden Farm in Louisa County—the site of a 180-acre corn, grain and produce operation where Richard Anderson “Dickie” Trice III was born in its stately historic house in August 1938. The farm has been inhabited by six generations of the same family since 1807. Spring Garden became a waterfront farm in 1972 with the creation of Lake Anna, and was designated as a Century Farm about 10 years ago.
Trice died at home in April 2020.
“His circle of life began and ended at Spring Garden Farm,” said Trice’s wife of almost 55 years, Charlotte. “We put his bed next to the windows where he could see the barn, fields and lake. He loved this farm.”
Qualifying farms must be owned 100 years or more by a descendant of the original owner. A descendant must currently live on or farm the property, and the operation must gross $2,500 or more annually in sales from the farm.
Perkins processes the free applications monthly. Once approved, applicants receive a certificate signed by the governor and VDACS commissioner, with a Virginia Century Farm sign.
To learn more about Virginia Century Farms, see the list of farms, or access an application, visit the program website at bit.ly/3rR6zJS or call (804) 786-1906.