In 1994, 280 acres of land was separated from the historic Shirley estate in Virginia, a National Historic Landmark, to facilitate restoration and enhance agricultural productivity for the Carter family's next generation. This property was named Weanack Land, in honor of a nearby Native American village that existed during the 1620s.
Weanack is on the James River located in Charles City, Virginia. Within Weanack is Port Tobacco consisting of 60 acres of maritime facilities and a sheltered cove channeled off the James River between Richmond and Newport News, Virginia.
The land had been used for sand and gravel mining in the mid-20th century, leaving large clayey depressions that rendered it unsuitable for agriculture. However, these depressions were ideal for creating containment basins for dredged material. Charles Carter, a family member, has been managing and owning Weanack Land since its inception in 1994. Under his leadership, Weanack built a modern dock facility and established a business focused on land reclamation using dredged material.
The primary method of land reclamation involves the disposal of mud dredged from waterways, following strict testing and acceptance criteria. Although restoring farmland for row crops is the main use of this material, it has also been utilized for various other purposes, such as creating wetlands, an 18-acre pecan orchard, a 22-acre events space, and even as structural fill to support the modern dock facility at Weanack.
The silt, sand, and clay that fill channels and waterways often originate from plowed land and construction sites. Plowing arrived in the colonies around the mid-17th century, and marine scientists estimate that the areas just offshore of the historic Shirley estate have accumulated 10 feet of silt in the past 200 years. Much of this sediment is topsoil that can be used again for farming or vegetative growth. In essence, Weanack Land's business recovers topsoil clogging waterways and returns it to the land to improve farm soils, reclaim mined areas, and create vegetated wetlands.
The sediment undergoes testing for regulatory approval and agronomic utility. Approved sediment meeting topsoil standards can produce crop yields as good as or even better than the highly productive native soils in the area. Sediment that does not meet topsoil standards is used as elevational fill in the lower areas of the old mining pits, which are then capped with a thick layer of sediment that meets topsoil standards.
"Shirley is the the oldest family-owned business in North America (1638)" - National Historic Landmarks Program, US National Park Service (source)