Ingram Family, Threlkeld Farm, Culpeper County

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Terry, Boo, and Rush Ingram, who donated an easement on Boo’s family farm in 2003.

Growing up, Linda Yancey Ingram knew every inch of Threlkeld, her family farm since 1828. “Boo,” as she is known among family and friends, would follow along behind her father as he worked on their dairy.

“It’s a part of my soul,” she says now. “I look around and remember my daddy plowing with horses and mules, then with machinery. He liked to try new things, and he was a good farmer.”

Her son Terry inherited his grandfather’s skills and curiosity, although he admits he didn’t know it at first. “I had no intention of farming when I got out of college,” he says. “I was interested in the business world. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that farming is a business, and I got curious about what was viable on a farm this size.”

Terry took over management of Threlkeld from his mom in 2003—the same year that Boo, Terry, and brother Rush agreed to donate an easement on the 230-acre property to VOF. The decision “brought the family together,” Terry says. “We all had the same goal.”

Boo adds, “We had a lot of questions because an easement is a forever commitment. It is a family decision.  I consider it the most successful thing I’ve done. I was able to completely pay farm debt and save my love, Threlkeld Farm, as a farm forever.”

For Terry, knowing the farm would always be open land gave him more confidence in running the dairy. He replaced the old dairy barn with a new one, and was able to focus on a long-term goal, building the health of the soil. “I became passionate about grazing. I slowly developed mentors in the grazing world and learned what I could.”

During a visit to an American Farmland Trust farm in 2006, Terry was inspired by the organic farming practices he saw there and decided to try them at home. “I really didn’t have the mindset at first, but the more I worked at it and saw the results, I became a believer,” he says. He adds that once he started allowing the soil to rest through rotational grazing, “I saw a profound difference in soil health.” Organic matter on Threlkeld’s soils increased from two to eight percent over the course of seven years.

“More life in the soil means better grass and healthier cattle,” Terry explains.

Terry spent seven years rebuilding the soils on the farm organically.

Allowing organic matter to build in the soil has other benefits, too, he continues. “It means the soil holds six inches of water an hour instead of one inch. That’s a big difference in how resilient the land can be when the weather changes.”

Additionally, each percent of organic matter per acre sequesters 250,000 pounds of carbon. “Multiply that by how many acres you’re grazing and it’s just phenomenal.”

Now Terry is sharing his knowledge as part of his job with the Organic Valley milk cooperative.  The move is a way to scale up. “I’m trying to have a bigger impact, and the job allows me to help other farmers by sharing my experiences.” Besides, he adds, “It felt good after almost 20 years of farming to be around people again.”

Meanwhile, Boo has been helping fellow landowners learn about conservation easements as essential tools for saving agricultural land. “I know it’s a tough decision, and I encourage people when I can,” she says. “I would love to see every piece of land from here to Brandy Station under easement.”

After Terry built a new dairy barn, Rush lovingly restored the old one, and it now hosts Airbnb guests for farm stays.

Boo is also a longstanding member of the Piedmont Environmental Council and has done volunteer work monitoring easements for VOF.

At Threlkeld, Terry’s hard work building the soil there continues to pay off. The Ingrams are currently leasing acreage to a young farmer who is growing organic hay on the property. They say he eventually plans to manage a new dairy herd there, using those rich soils to nourish more cows. “Healthier cows mean healthier people, too,” Terry says. “It’s an unbroken chain.”

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5 Comments

  1. Fantastic article! We are renting old farmhouse….first big white house before Boo’s home! A beautiful place…Boo is a wonderful, intelligent, loving person..We are truly blessed to have come across this magnificent opportunity!! Thank you, Ingram Family!! You guys are the best,!!!

  2. So we knew Boo Ingram when she was in her maybe mid to late 20’s when she and David lived on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
    In the short time we knew them, they changed our lives for the better.
    David took us fishing putting the boat in at Burton Shore and we fished the inlets for large flounder.
    Rush was maybe 2-4 years old and John was older.
    The Ingrams were much younger than all the other parents and treated us kids as real people.
    I had never heard anyone say “when are you going to “mow” my lawn.” like Boo did with her unique accent. Even as a 10 years old I noticed it.
    That was my summer time gig. Cutting grass.
    Boo was all that back then and very pretty but she also treated all us kids well and to top it off they had a pinball machine that you could play for free!!!

    Thanks,
    David and Boo

  3. On top of all that, my brother and I got to visit the dairy farm in probably 1969 or so.
    I was only around 14 years old but was allowed to drive the “Dune Buggy.” It was an old Volkswagon without the body. We/I even drove it to fish in a small river once.
    We got to taste real milk and we met Boo’s mom.
    They had an old horse that took me under a tree limb and knocked me off.
    The week long visit was great, and Boo also took us to the Zoo in Washington before we flew home.

    Tom

  4. Boo this is wild I just started thinking about what you all might be doing then I saw what my brother had written one thing that I would like to add to it was while we were out visiting with you we went to a old abandoned house I remember it was really great to see. Great to see you and your family

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