It is important we all do our part to keep our waterways—our Chesapeake Bay clean.  However, with growth and change, we have to be ever so vigilant in our conservation struggle to keep our environment healthy, safe, beautiful and pristine.  The District annually awards members of the local community who have been remarkable stewards of the land.  An awards ceremony was hosted by the Eastern Shore Soil and Water Conservation District  at the Onley Town Center in Onley, VA on Friday, July 27, 2018 led by Robin Rich-Coates, District Board Chair, and Carmie Savage, District Manager.

The Clean Water Farm Award, a State award sponsored by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), is given to Virginia farmers who are exemplary in their protection of the State’s soil and water resources. The 2018 Clean Water Farm Award was awarded to David Long of Long Grain and Livestock. Mr. Long is a regular participant in the District’s annual small grain cover crop program. Mr. Long also has 400 acres enrolled in NRCS’ small grain cover crop program.  All of Mr. Long’s cropland, about 2,000 acres, has a minimum 35’ buffer width which helps to protect water quality by intercepting nitrogen and phosphorus carried by surface runoff which can pollute our local waterways.  He maintains a 2.3 acre pollinator habitat which was established in 2014 to attract local pollinators like butterflies and bees.  This year, he plans to plant another 9.2 acres in field borders, which helps reduce water erosion.

The District acknowledged a local farmer, Oscar H. Smith, Jr. of SSS Farms as the Conservation Farmer of the Year Award.  Mr. Smith has been a regular participant in the District’s cover crop program where he includes an Abruzzi rye cover in his small grain rotation.  He maintains a current Nutrient Management Plan on nearly 130 acres.  Mr. Smith also installed a Stream Exclusion best management practice through funding provided by the District.  The District partnered with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to install almost 5,000 feet of barbed fencing, and almost 650 feet of woven fencing to prevent 35 cows from entering Nassawaddox Creek.  Keeping cattle out of waterways is critical to help Virginia meet Chesapeake Bay Water Implementation Plan goals.

Nominated by NRCS, this year’s Wildlife Conservationist Award was presented to Brooke Layton recognizing his outstanding efforts in wildlife conservation.  In 2004, Brooke bought 70 acres of land under easement.  He farms a number of species recreationally, including plants like buttonbush and wild celery and manages his 30 acre wetland with a water control device that he worked with NRCS to install in 2007.  The wetland gets flooded with about five feet of water in the spring, attracting thousands of ducks, geese and other wildlife to the property. Then, when the ducklings are grown enough to fly, he lowers the water with his control device.

The Virginia Department of Forestry, Eastern Shore Area Office nominated Richard F. Hall III for the District’s 2018 Conservation Forester Award.  Rick manages his family timberlands in Accomack County for loblolly pine timber production and hunting leases.  The Department of Forestry has worked closely with Rick over the years to conduct practices such as timber harvesting, commercial thinning, natural and planted reforestation, aerial release, prescribed burning, and pre-commercial thinning on Rick’s wooded tracts.  The results of these practices are focused on loblolly –pine timber stand maintenance and improvement, and also enhance wildlife habitat and hunting opportunities for the deer hunters that hold hunting leases on Rick’s farms. Forest Stewardship Plans have also been written for several tracts to cover wildlife habitat management, aesthetics, and soil and water conservation.

The District awarded Sandra Thornton, Environmental Science Teacher at Broadwater Academy as the 2018 Educator of the Year.  Sandra began teaching in 1999.  She was awarded a Grant for Global Teachers to set-up a climate sharing project between Broadwater Academy students and students in India, Uganda, the Arctic and the Philippines.  She is also a PolarTREC/NOAA Teacher at Sea fellow.  Her students also grow oysters for Oyster Reef Keepers.   Sandra has been the Broadwater Academy Envirothon coach for 5 years and coached 2 teams in the District competition in 2018.  A quote that inspires Sandra is one by Jane Goodall –“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you.  What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind you want to make.”

The District awarded the 2018 Conservation Student Award to an exceptional student who participates in environmental studies and conservation outreach, Palmer Smith. Palmer graduated from Broadwater Academy with a 3.97 GPA and will be attending Virginia Tech in the fall.  Palmer plans to study Animal & Poultry Science with aspirations of being a Veterinarian.  Palmer has made the Honor Roll throughout high school and was the class president her 10th-12th grade years. Palmer participated on the Envirothon team and in 2017, the District and Ye Accawmacke Garden Club selected Palmer to represent the Eastern Shore at VASWCD’s Youth Conservation Camp at Virginia Tech.  While she learned fisheries management, tree identification and water quality by seining for macro invertebrates and things of that nature (no pun intended), she also was able to explore the Virginia & Maryland Veterinary School where she hopes to one day attend.  Palmer was also awarded a $500 W. Foster Fletcher Conservation Scholarship by the District’s Endowment Committee.

Hayley Marshall who just graduated from Northampton High School second in her class with a 4.666 GPA was also awarded a $500 W. Foster Fletcher Conservation Scholarshipby the District’s Endowment Committee.   Hayley will be attending the University of Virginia.  Hayley had taken the initiative to enroll in the ES Community College and completed her Associate’s Degree before she received her high school diploma. Her academic record demonstrates excellence and environmental consciousness.

When nutrients, pesticides and chemicals are kept out of local waterways, we all benefit.  The District is committed to help conserve the area’s natural resources through its farm programs, through education and outreach that promote resource protection by everyone.  By recognizing local individuals whose efforts really do make a difference, the Eastern Shore Soil and Water Conservation District hopes to set an example for all of us to follow.