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American Forage and Grassland Council tours Riverside Farm

FG Editor Lynn Jaynes Published on 01 July 2013
Jamey, Trey, Lilly and Amanda Breeden

In 1860, Sidney Coates’ grandfather settled on Riverside Farm in what is now Madison County, Virginia.

In 1862, General Stonewall Jackson camped at Riverbend Farm on his way to bolster the ranks of General Robert E. Lee in what would become the Battle of Fredricksburg, one of the most one-sided battles of the Civil War.

Today, Riverside Farm certainly looks like it could comfortably feed an army of men and mounts with its 150 mother cows, 300 acres corn, 200 acres beans, 200 acres barley, 300 acres wheat and 500 acres grass hay – mostly orchardgrass and timothy.

AFGC tour participants Riverside Farm
Riverside Farm was recently featured on the American Forage and Grasslands Council 2013 national tour.

Michael Coates, son of Sidney and Jean Coates, is the third-generation operator on the farm.

The hay is packaged in both 900-pound to 1,100-pound round bales and 45-pound to 50-pound small bales.

AFGC tour participants Riverside Farm
Coates was one of the first in the area to use a disc-bine and says if he had to cut with a sickle bar now, he wouldn’t cut it.

To keep from overworking the soil, he uses a sod drill.

The majority of Riverside Farm hay is marketed to feed stores in Virginia, with some being sent to Florida.

“What I’ve found is if hay has a good color and good smell, you can sell it,” Coates insists.

General Stonewall Jackson Riverside Farm
The lower-quality hay goes to cow feed, and he ships some hay to Pennsylvania, as well.

In addition to hay sales, as with other Virginia producers, Coates also bales quite a bit of straw to satisfy local market demands.

There is a trick to keeping an operation this size profitable.

As Coates puts it, “We’ve got to keep moving, and we don’t work any ground if we can get away with it.”

This philosophy agrees with a maxim General Jackson copied into a small book for his personal use, which states: “Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off unnecessary actions.”  FG

FIRST: Jamey, Trey, Lilly and Amanda Breeden (Michael’s daughter), Jean and Sidney Coates, and Michael Coates appreciate their fourth-generation heritage at Riverside Farm.

SECOND: AFGC tour participants examine orchardgrass and timothy hay cuttings at Riverside Farm.

THIRD: AFGC tour participants examine a rotary tedder at Riverside Farm.

FORTH: General Stonewall Jackson’s encampment site overlooking hayfields at Riverbend Farm. Photos by Lynn Jaynes.