We are very fortunate to have nearly a mile of land alongside the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. Our riparian buffer totals 52 acres and is the site of much research and beauty. The overall goal is to restore the previous fescue-dominated grazing field to native warm season grasses and wildflowers in order to benefit wildlife.
The field is divided into seven management areas, each of which is undergoing different treatments. In cooperation with the Virginia Department of Forestry, we burned one section in January 2012 and an adjacent area in March 2012 to compare the results. Different sections have undergone a burn in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018. An additional section was burned and reseeded with a mixture of native warm season grasses and forbs as part of a grant through the Smithsonian Institute. We are now on a three-year burning schedule for specific plots.
The riparian area is one of the study sites utilized by the Smithsonian Institute’s Virginia Working Landscapes program in which surveys are taken of birds, pollinators and plants.
We are grateful to Page County high school students, the Raw Learning group, Oakbrook Church Stewards of Creation, the JMU Migrant Studies program participants and other volunteers who have installed native shrubs and wildflowers along the river path. The path has become a feature of the riparian area, continually providing new opportunities to observe wildlife, admire the river and enjoy the variety of plants. It also provides a great opportunity for students to study various aspects of ecology and institutes of higher education to pursue research data.
BIRDS AND BUTTERFLIES
We are pleased with the increase in bird species diversity and numbers we have been seeing at the White House Farm over the years. This can be attributed in part to restoring the riparian area back to native warm season grasses and wildflowers, which provides habitat and supports native insect species. White House Natives, the 25 acre Virginia native tree and shrub nursery, is also serving an important function by providing native berries and seeds for the birds to eat as well as caterpillars for the mother birds to feed their young. We are grateful to our local bird experts who provide tallies, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Virginia Working Landscapes program for providing surveys.
We are also proud to take part in the annual North American Butterfly Association (NABA) butterfly count at the White House Farm. The riparian area is continuing to prove a wonderful area of native plants which serve as hosts to numerous species of Lepidoptera. The wildflowers provide valuable nectar sources for the adult butterflies, including rudbeckia, thistles, sweet white clover, milkweed, monarda and many others. We participate in the Shenandoah Valley regional count, which includes the middle section of Page County and the Shenandoah National Park. Teams fan out and visit meadows, back yards, gardens and other areas which provide host areas and nectar sources. For the 2018 count, an impressive 4,198 individual butterflies were counted, including 48 species.
SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES
We have been honored to host various school groups for research projects, educational trips, and volunteering. From elementary class field trips to university environmental studies and archaeology classes, the farm has played an important role in our mission to enrich individuals with knowledge of and involvement with our natural ecological systems. Do you work with a class, organization, or community group and would like to visit the farm for an outdoor educational field trip? Contact us today to schedule a visit.