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Eastern Shore SWCD's Annual Awards Banquet

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 Eastern Shore SWCD annually awards members of our local Eastern Shore community who have been remarkable stewards of the land and in the promotion of conservation. The awardees are recognized at an awards banquet hosted by the District, typically in late July. ​​

2019 Annual Awards Banquet

The 2019 Annual Awards Banquet was held on Friday, July 26, 2019, at the Workforce Development Center at Eastern Shore Community College in Melfa, VA.  The event was catered with delicious home-style Eastern Shore fare by Exmore Diner.
  • 2019 Conservation Farmer of the Year Award:

The District awarded a local farmer James A. Evans as the 2019 Conservation Farmer of the Year.  Each year the District acknowledges a local farmer who regularly applies best management practices to promote soil and water conservation to improve water quality on the Eastern Shore.  Jim grows primarily corn, soybeans, wheat and string beans on his 2,297 acre farm.  He recently acquired new acreage and now farms an additional 1,700 acres.  He maintains a current Nutrient Management Plan on all his acreage and annually participates in the cover crop program administered by the District planting wheat and barley cover crops on his farmland. Jim uses minimal tillage practices (no-till) to reduce soil loss and improve soil health by maintaining the soil’s organic matter and biological activity. He uses precision variable rate nitrogen application equipment, as well as low drift spray nozzles to more accurately apply nitrogen and chemicals to his croplands as well as reduce runoff.  Jim is very conscientious about ag conservation and tries to implement beneficial improvements to his farming operation. Every farmer would like to improve his bottom line, but he takes it a step farther in an effort to improve the quality of his farming environment for future generations.  With conservation in mind, he planted two acres of pollinator habitat through the NRCS Conservation Stewardship program this year.  He is a man of purpose and focus on what it takes to survive and thrive as a modern day farmer.
2019 Conservation Farmer Awardee: James A. Evans (Jim)
Pollinator Habitat enrolled in NRCS programs by Kenneth Blair, 2019 Wildlife Conservationist
  • 2019 Wildlife Conservationist Award:

Nominated by NRCS, the District awarded Kenneth R. Blair, recognizing his outstanding efforts in wildlife conservation.  Each year the District recognizes someone who works with Natural Resources Conservation Service to enhance wildlife habitat and to protect water quality.  Ken raises poultry for Tyson and has steadily grown the operation, building three more chicken houses on 27 acres of land over the last 15 years to the original two he started with. Like any other farming operation, he has had good and bad years but is quick to point out that prices are more consistent than commodities like grain and you don’t have to worry about weather. He first began working with NRCS to explore options for reducing emissions from his operation. He started with a granular litter treatment and District Conservationists Tina Jerome and Jane Corson-Lassiter helped him develop a conservation plan that included concrete Heavy Use Area (HUA) pads, a waste storage facility, and tree plantings to serve as a windbreak for odor control.  Working with NRCS staff, Ken has recently planted about 12 acres of pollinator meadow in front of his farm, and is now raising bees. He started with four hives and wants to expand to 20.  He recommends getting to know your local NRCS, Soil and Water Conservation District and Farm Service Agency teams to find out what’s available for you. His journey started with one request and blossomed into a great relationship.
  • 2019 Conservation Forester Award:

Nominated by VA Department of Forestry (DOF), the District awarded Nickawampus Farm, Willis Eastern Shore LLC by recognizing its outstanding efforts in wildlife conservation.  Each year the District recognizes someone who works above and beyond with our local foresters to enhance forest health, wildlife habitat and to protect water quality.  Ben Willis manages his family timberlands in Chancetown for wildlife habitat enhancement for hunting, and timber production.  The Department of Forestry is working with Ben in conducting the forest management practices necessary for meeting his forest management objectives.  Ben has established wildlife food plots, shallow water impoundments, new forest stands, and early succession cover patches.   Game species that truly benefit from the use of traditional forest management practices across the landscape of the Shore are the bobwhite quail, eastern wild turkey, and the whitetail deer. Upcoming practices planned for Nickawampus Farm are commercial thinning, precommercial thinning, prescribed burning, and establishment of a couple of longleaf pine stands.
Eastern Shore SWCD Chair, Robin Rich-Coates,awarding Mr. Ben Willis of Nickawampus Farm as 2019 Conservation Forester.
  • 2019 Educator of the Year Award:

The District awarded William "Bill" Dyas as the 2019 Educator of the Year. In 2013, Bill got a job at Kiptopeke State Park as an interpretive park ranger.  He enjoys having the chance to help other people make a connection to the environment. His favorite activity is taking people on Owl Prowls.  During his tenure at Kiptopeke State Park, the programs went from fewer than 1500 engagements to more than 15,000 engagements. He even had a student write a book about him which is probably his favorite memory. Bill was instrumental in starting Outdoor Exploration Day which is an event sponsored by the District in partnership with Kiptopeke State Park and is going to held on September 28th as the 3rd Annual Event.  When asked about his favorite quote about nature (and life), Bill said, “I did what I could until I couldn’t and then I did something else. Did you?”  He feels this is something that we should all strive for when it comes to making a difference in the world around us.
William "Bill" Dyas -2019 Educator of the Year teaching a group of students at the Watershed Festival in Accomack County
  • 2019 District Scholarships:

The District awarded the Wiliam H. Beasley, Sr. Memorial Scholarship and the W. Foster Fletcher Conservation Scholarship in the amount of $750 each to two students in 2019.    
William H. Beasley, Sr. Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Erica Head who is currently attending James Madison University majoring in Biology with a concentration in Ecology and Environmental Sciences minoring in Pre-Veterinary Medicine and Honors Interdisciplinary Studies. Erica is set to graduate May 2020.
Foster Fletcher Conservation Scholarship was awarded to William L. Hamilton, IV “Toby” who just graduated from Nandua High School and will be attending VA Tech in the fall majoring in Natural Resource Management. Toby achieved honor roll status his entire high school career. He attended Youth Conservation Camp at VA Tech, participated in the Envirothon, played on Nandua High School’s varsity football team, baseball team and served as a volunteer in the Wachapreague Volunteer Fire Company.
  • 2019 VASWCD Youth Conservation Campers:

The Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (VASWCD) has sponsored the Youth Conservation Camp located on the campus of Virginia Tech annually for 42 years.  In 2019, In partnership with Ye Accawmacke Garden Club, the District sponsored Brooke Bud and Ta’Vonta Timmons to attend Youth Conservation Camp with District support towards traveling expenses.
Students spend a week learning about VA’s natural resources from conservation professionals and Virginia Tech faculty. Virginia Tech faculty.   Most of the instruction is hands-on and outdoors.  While at the camp, campers spent the week hiking, canoeing, shock fishing, visiting a dairy farm, learning about  BMP’s, tree identification, and forest products as well as visiting the Virginia/Maryland Veterinary School. 
Pictured from left to right:
Ta'Vonta Timmons and Brooke Bud
  • 2019 Clean Water Farm Award:

The Clean Water Farm Award is a State award sponsored by the VA Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR) and is given to VA farmers who are exemplary in their protection of the State's soil and water resources.  The 2019 Clean Water Farm Award was presented to David Rew of Rew Farms, Inc.  As the 2019 Clean Water Farm Awardee, the District will nominate him for the 2019 Grand Coastal Basin Award.
Rew Farms, Inc. is a 3,500 acre farming operation.  David manages his entire acreage using conservation tillage methods with very little soil disturbance. This reduces soil loss from fields while helping to maintain and promote the soil’s organic matter and biological activity. David maintains a current nutrient management plan on all of his acreage through participation in the VA Ag BMP Cost Share program administered by the District.  David manages high levels of crop residue in his fields after harvest, including wheat crop residue which he does not bale in order to retain the high biomass and nutrients in the straw.  He also participates in the cover crop cost share program and incorporates over 700 acres of soybeans, oats and barley cover crops into his operation to add soil carbon and biomass to help reduce excessive nitrogen loss as well as minimize erosion potential.  Sacrificial 30-foot field wildlife borders of soybeans are planted yearly to provide food for the wildlife population and help protect his grain crops.
David’s efforts at conservation have been recognized by USDA NRCS through their Conservation Stewardship Program. Through his constant efforts to improve his operation and have a positive impact on the environment, he has excelled in creating a model clean water conservation farm.  His fields are kept clean and well - tended using the most modern minimal tillage equipment to help prevent erosion. His fertilizer application rates are guided by his nutrient management plan and plant tissue testing to add the ideal amount of fertilizer at the right time without excessive runoff.  David strives to constantly improve his conservation practices and techniques while protecting the water resources around his farming operation.
Working in conjunction with NRCS, David has planted five acres of pollinator habitat  to attract local pollinating insects and to serve as an ecosystem for other wildlife including song birds. The smallest plot is 1.8 acres and was recently planted in an area prone to salt water flooding.  This plot is being monitored by NRCS to study and improve plant performance and salt resistance / tolerance under these conditions.  The information gathered may help in pioneering solutions for portions of fields that have become “salt” barren and are now more prone to erosion.
Left to Right: Robin Rich-Coates- ESSWCD Chair; Darryl Glover- DCR Division Director, David Rew- 2019 Clean Water Farm Awardee;  Matthew Strickler- VA Secretary of Natural Resources
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