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By Lyle Tabb IV
As interviewed by Martha Mintz
Name: Lyle Tabb, IV
Farm: Lyle C. Tabb & Sons
Location: Kearneysville, W.Va.
Years No-Tilling: 35
Crops: Corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, grass and alfalfa hay
FARMING IN THE Shenandoah Valley in West Virginia has its fair share of challenges. Bordered by the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and by the eastern front of the ridge-and-valley Appalachians to the west, the valley is beautiful, but rocky.
When doing field work we often have to steer around rocky outcroppings. If you looked at an aerial image of my family’s farm, you’d notice the fields and fence rows don’t run north and south, east and west like they would in the Midwest: they run slightly northeast to southwest.
The reason is fences and fields are lined up with the ridges of limestone rock that cut through the region like backbones. It dictates how I plant my fields, too, because if you ran across those rocks you’d knock huge pieces off the planter.
Our rocky fields were the primary reason my father, Cam Tabb, was called on to help John Deere work on an experimental hydraulic reset moldboard plow in the late 1960s. Ironically, that was about the last bit of tillage Dad did, as by 1972 he’d purchased a no-till planter. We still have a moldboard plow here, but I’ve never seen it in the field or the blades shiny from work. It’s just a rust-covered reminder of…