The Virginia Century Farm program has passed another milestone. The program, administered by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, has recognized more than 850 farms since it began 10 years ago.

The addition of 107 farms since September, 2004, brings the current total to 859 honorees.

The Century Farm program, established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1997, honors the commitment and contributions of farm families who have owned and worked their farms for 100 years or more.

The Virginia Century Farm program got under way in July, 1997 and by December of that year, it had honored 144 farms. Six months later the total had grown to 280. By October, 1999, the program boasted more than 500 farms on its rolls, added another one hundred farms by April, 2001, totaled over 680 in early 2003 and climbed to 752 in 2004.

Century farms are located in 88 counties and 5 cities across the state. Rockingham County tops the list with 44 designated farms, followed by Southampton County with 43. Franklin County has the third highest total with 29 Century Farms.

To qualify as a Virginia Century Farm, applicants must meet these criteria: the farm must have been owned by the same family for at least one hundred consecutive years; the farm must be lived on, or actually farmed by, a descendant of the original owner; and the farm must gross more than $2,500 annually from the sale of agricultural products.

Commercial tree farms may also qualify as Century Farms even if they do not gross the stipulated amount in the sale of farm products.

Century Farm families receive a certificate of recognition and an 11x17-inch aluminum sign for exterior display.

Application forms are available from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services by calling 804-786-2373; by mailing a request to Century Farm, VDACS, P.O. Box 1163, Richmond, Va., 23218; or by accessing the Web site at http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/ and clicking on the special programs and quick links button. There is no fee to apply.