Ingles Farm dates back to 1747, early European settlers
RADFORD, Va. — Ingles Farm, on the banks of Virginia’s New River, melds the past, present and future where some of the earliest European settlers once made their home and their descendants now run an innovative beef cattle operation.
Lewis Ingles “Bud “Jeffries, Colonel, U.S. Army (Ret.) is the seventh generation of the family founded by William and Mary Draper Ingles, one of the more famous couples of the Western Virginia frontier, to live on the farm.
Legend holds they were the first couple to be married west of the continental divide between the Roanoke River and New River watersheds.
Ingles Farm has been part of the many changes in agriculture during the centuries it has been in the family and is currently operating as a pasture-based beef operation.
Prior to locating at this site, the Draper and Ingles families had settled at Drapers Meadows, located at what is now part of Virginia Tech’s campus in Montgomery County.
One summer day in 1755 tragedy struck the two families when the men were away from the cabins. A Shawnee war party attacked, killing family members and kidnapping young women and children and carrying them off to what is now Indiana. Mary Draper Ingles made her way back home following the rivers and became a historical matriarch in Western Virginia. Her story has since inspired several books, films and living history programs marking the ordeal.
Bud Jefferies and his son John have delved deep into their ancestors and can cite many facts from those early days.
The land was deeded to William Ingles in 1747 and he and Mary moved there sometime after her return in the 1750s.
Bud now runs a beef cattle herd trending toward red cattle. He has been developing the farm and his cow/calf herd, he said, since his retirement from the Army.
He talked about the family history, his desire to raise beef cattle and the way he approached it during an interview in Ingleside, the home he came to live in before he was two years old. It dates to the earliest days of the farm.
“I don’t remember not living here,” he said.
He is the son of Mary Lewis Ingles who married Melville Jeffries from Culpeper, who came to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and met his future bride. Bud said his father worked as the sports information officer at VPI, now Virginia Tech, until 1943 when World War II caused the school to temporarily close. The couple then moved to Ingleside and his father went into the insurance business. Their son grew up in Radford, the city where the farm is located, and then attended Virginia Tech, majoring in animal science.
From there Bud’s life took a turn away from the farm when he joined the Army and served 27 years, including a year and five days in Vietnam.
During Bud’s youth and until he returned to Ingleside, a share cropper and his wife also lived in the home and did the farming, he recalled. He said Drexel and Eunice Phillips who now reside in the Pulaski County community of Snowville. He remembers beef and dairy cattle as well as hogs being raised there. Crops included corn, wheat and hay along with pasture land.
“He will probably forget more about farming than I will ever learn about it,” Bud said of Drexel Phillips. He said the man was like an uncle to him. Bud turned to Philips for advice when he was leaving the Army and considering his options for the future.
“I’ve done a lot to try to preserve the farm because of the family heritage,” Bud said.
After discussions with his wife Ann, a Texas native, and their children, John and Jennie, they have set up a living trust which will allow the farm to stay in the family with a minimum of stress as generations pass. In 2002, they put the farm in a conservation easement with the Virginia Outdoor Foundation, ensuring it will remain in agriculture and not be developed.
“There’s 260 years of heritage here,” he said. “Once it is sold, money can’t buy that. It’s something you can’t buy.”
After the family decided to come home to Ingleside and the farm, Bud spent years getting it ready for cattle. He had asked his children who had spent their summers on the farm where they wanted to live and they said they wanted to stay on the farm. too.
“I’m glad that’s what you want to do because that’s what I want to do,” he said he told them. “I want to raise beef cattle.”
The family came back in 1991 to the farm, which had not been used in 40 years. Trees and brush were grown up, it lacked fencing and even a tractor or any machinery. Bud purchased his first cattle in 1994.
The event that sparked his interest in intensive pasture management is an example of how the twists and turns of life can result in a network that brings people together.
Bud recalled he was sitting in his office at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., when a one-star general introduce himself as a fellow Virginia Tech graduate. The general said he studied agronomy and was a professor of agronomy at Iowa State. Bud’s roommate at Virginia Tech had also been an agronomy major. The general told him about Jim Gerrish of the University of Missouri and research in rotational grazing.
Bud sought Gerrish out and learned about what was new in forages at the time, rotational grazing, an innovation that has continued to grow in the industry.
Now the farm has more than a mile of underground water lines feeding 25 paddocks on the 160 acres of the farm so cattle can be rotated to fresh pastures.
He started with 12 cows purchased in 1994 and now has 63. At first he tried having spring and fall calving herds but has moved to all spring calving herds. Bud stressed he means real spring calving, not January and February calving.
Still this year has proved difficult for him.
“This winter with the weather is the worst I have had,” he said.
While he only lost one calf out of 28 births in nine days, he said he had to save five others from hypothermia. For him, that meant using the cab of his truck with windows closed and the heater running at full blast to get the calves’ core temperatures back up and be sure they got the colostrum they needed to survive.
“People said this is the hottest farm in Pulaski and Montgomery counties,” Bud said, explaining his decision to buck the trend for black cattle and opt more for red.
His herd includes Red Angus, Milking Devons, a heritage breed, and some black cattle. He breeds with artificial insemination and uses cleanup bulls which are registered.
The farm is located on the river bottom beside the New River where high hills rise on both sides. This geographic feature tends to hold the heat on the farm, he said. The varying shades of red of the cattle helps prevent heat stress.
Bud said John helps with feeding and other work after getting off from work at the local truck plant where he works as an independent contractor. Bud said John has developed a real interest in nutrition and works to be sure the cattle get the best possible feed.
He added they seldom have to buy hay as several people in Blacksburg have them mow property they own for the hay. This supplements what hay they grow on their own land. They cut it four times a season when it’s between 12 and 15 inches tall. In the spring and fall, they make haylage and in the summer make dry hay. Bud said they treat their animals as humanely as possible and have built a handling facility to make this possible. They sell their weaned calves at a nearby cattle collection facility. Bud believes it more humane to have the calves fully weaned before selling them, avoiding stress on the animals in the weeks after they reach their new home.
The family plans to continue with its cattle operation on the land of their ancestors for many more years.
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