NAPS Honors Luther Welch
(From Reid Armstrong, Rappahannock Record)
Lifelong farmer Luther E. Welch said his plows are rusting, and he’s happy. Welch began practicing no-till farming more that 20 years ago, long before anyone else in the county had even heard of the soil conservation technique. “I was doing it on back fields where no one else could see it,” Welch said. A fourth generation Northern Neck farmer, he discovered the benefits of no-till while watching squirrel digging in some soil by a tree in his field. The earth around the tree had not been disturbed by the plowing. He dug a little hole and discovered, “some of the blackest topsoil I had ever laid eyes on,” Welch said. He has since pursued soil conservation techniques and has spent the last decade on the Board of Directors of the Northern Neck Soil and Water Conservation District. “My family would never do anything to harm the watermen,” said Welch. “No-tilling protects them and it protects us.” Many areas in the Northern Neck have less than 15 inches of topsoil, said extension agent Ginny Barnes, who nominated Welch for the award. When farmers plow, rains wash away a lot of the loosened topsoil. While yields decline slightly using no-till techniques, Barnes added farmers make up for it by saving on fuel and labor expenses by not plowing. Some day, Welch believes, farmers will only need to use nitrogen and lime on their fields. He hopes to continue to discover ways to preserve his farmland and the Chesapeake Bay, he said. Welch is also working to preserve the history of farming in the Northern Neck. He has acquired, restored, and cataloged a large collection of antique farm equipment and memorabilia. He hopes to open his History of Farming Museum near Kilmarnock in November, after the corn is harvested.
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