Preserving Ditchley: A creative conservation venture

The Northern Neck Land Conservancy’s (NNLC) efforts have enabled an enterprising Northumberland County couple to preserve a historic estate, raise livestock and create an orchard for cider production.

“The owners (Cathy Calhoun and Paul Grosklags) made some terrific decisions to preserve this beautiful property,” said NNLC president Lawrence Latane, regarding the conservation easement and related grants for Ditchley, a 161-acre waterfront estate that dates back to the Lee family and served as the former home of Jessie Ball duPont.

The Northumberland County property was slated for subdivision development by the previous owners, said Latane. The NNLC worked with the owners to secure federal and state funds, allowing the land to be preserved, restored and put into use for farming and agriculture production, he said.

The result was a $1.9 million grant through the federal Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, which seeks to maintain working farmlands. Additionally, the Virginia Outdoor Foundation transferred $200,000 in state matching funds for the project.

As a result, Calhoun and Grosklags have planted 2,000 cider apple trees, bred and borne Belted Galloway cows, goats, pigs and turkeys. The cows fertilize, the ducks eliminate beetles, the pigs eat apple pulp…