From the deserts of Afghanistan, to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, James “Buck” Holsinger has served his country as a pilot and a farmer. From an early age, Buck dreamed of becoming a pilot. After the events of September 11, 2001, he made the decision to enlist. For two tours in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010, Buck flew large cargo planes.
After his second tour in Afghanistan and the birth of his third child, Buck wanted to return to farming so he could instill the same values in his children.
Buck is a 9th generation farmer. He grew up working on the farm with his father, grandfather, and cousins. Buck recalls, “On the weekends, it was everybody’s second job.” Looking back, he says, “Some of the tools and knowledge that I gained have been invaluable in all my careers including the military because I learned that farming work ethic.”
With assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Buck has made Holsinger Homeplace Farms more efficient and sustainable. NRCS provided advice and funding to help him install fencing to keep his cattle out of a nearby stream and to create new grazing paddocks with six watering troughs. This grazing system has helped Buck feed more cattle on less acres and prevent contamination of local water sources.
“I began working with Buck in 2010 to help him develop a conservation plan for his farm,” says Harrisonburg District Conservationist Cory Guilliams. “Since then, he has become a model steward who has installed conservation practices on his home farm and rented acres through the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). He has also enrolled in FSA’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to plant streamside buffers on 8.3 acres.”
Buck’s favorite on-farm improvement is installing a silvopasture (planting tree and shrubs along with grasses for cattle on the same acre). With this practice, he has been able to provide additional food and shelter for his livestock, and additional income source from future tree harvests.
Today, Holsinger Homeplace Farms is a 92 acre livestock operation featuring grass-fed cattle, pork and poultry. Buck’s mission is simple. “I wanted to grow beef that I knew how and where it was grown for my family. And now we are doing the same thing with pork.” Buck has enjoyed watching his business grow, but wants to maintain his identity as a local producer for clients within 130 miles of his home.
“We can hopefully help to teach the next generation where our food comes from. That it doesn’t come from the grocery store. It comes from a field with four or two legs. And hopefully, we can help to instill that idea of agriculture as an employment opportunity for the next generation”.
“The biggest thing is to introduce yourself and get to know your NRCS and FSA personnel. There are programs out there to help new and beginning farmers.” USDA programs have been invaluable to Buck and he recommends them to new and continuing farmers.
“They’ve got the experiences and the knowledge and they are honest with you,” continues Buck. “They are my friends now. If someone wanted to get into agriculture, the programs are there to keep the small farmer successful.”