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Love Fuels the High Energy

July 5, 2012

Military brats move a lot and all Aimee Neeley Figgatt ever wanted was to stay put. She ended up in West Virginia near family and grabbed the opportunity to work her great great grandfather’s farm of 10 acres in Teays Valley. But when her husband’s father became ill, they moved to his family’s farm in Dunbar. Now the daily responsibility is mostly hers, as her husband Chris works at the Robert C. Byrd Institute on Marshall’s South Charleston campus.  Both farms hold the West Virginia Association of Conservation Districts Century Farm designation for farms which have been in operation by the same family for over 100 years.

Aimee’s love for what she does shows everywhere but especially when she is around the animals. Most come running to her, yes for food, but mostly just for hugs and kisses. She has free range chickens, 3 minature cattle, 8 dairy goats, a horse, bees, and 14 hogs with another litter expected soon.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~She has recently installed a frame for a high tunnel to expand her vegetable garden production through the winter. She now grows heirloom tomatoes, beans, peas, peppers, basil, corn, lettuce, okra, cilantro, dill and celery, although the pig weed is growing so rapidly in the garden she wonders who will win the fight there. This fall she will turn the hogs loose in the outdoor garden, and they will clean it all out and have it ready for spring planting.

The hogs earn their feed, also being moved to help clear abandoned pasture. Chris’s dad had had a large dairy operation into the 1970s but much of the farm has not be used as extensively since he retired and is overgrown. Aimee and Chris have developed a five year plan to reclaim the acreage and rebuild its production.

Photo taken when dairy farm was in peak operation

This year they will finish the high tunnel construction and fence several pastures for livestock grazing. Next year they will build stalls inside the barn and paint it, improving its functionality and appearance. Aimee also wants to spend some time working on landscaping around the house which is overgrown as it was not a priority for her inlaws.

Barn now

Year Three involves upgrading the many woods roads through the 60-some acres and finishing her plans for her camper bed and breakfast. She has a number of small campers that she plans to renovate and place out in far pastures. Not expecting daily overnight guests, her vision is of a weekend retreat for people wanting to “live on a farm” for a few days. Some of her proposed settings are beautiful!

Aimee also invites people to the farm for a Locavore Dinner, usually in September. Last year’s event, supposedly limited to 150 guests, ended up with 212 people all wanting to experience a farm to eat only food from local farms. She also fixes up the upper level of the barn each October as a haunted barn and opens it up to friends and family for a covered dish supper.

There are some challenges, she admits. Replacing or installing new fencing is a major project and Chris works long hours for Marshall University, so the project is taking a bit longer than they expected. Regenerating a farm that had been out of work for 20-30 years also takes time, as Mother Nature will reclaim cleared pasture if left undisturbed for too long. In addition, trespassers who use her woods roads have cause a lot of damage. Last year someone burned down an unused barn to take the metal roof. Packs of dogs run loose and threaten her livestock.

Overall, she feels blessed. They collect rainwater off the barn and have no shortage of water, especially with numerous springs throughout the property with easy access for the free-ranging livestock. As part of the Kanawha County Conservation District (she is a District Supervisor), some of the land will be kept in forest habitat and the wild blackberries provide for wonderful treats. There is plenty of grass which provides most of their hay needs and especially after last week’s storm, there is plenty of firewood to help heat the house in the winter.

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