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 or in late fall. ​​

2022 Annual Awards Banquet

The 2022 Annual Awards Banquet was held in memory of Robin Rich-Coates and Fred Holland on Wednesday, October 26, 2022, 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.
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Robin Rich-Coates, July 12, 1954 - May 10, 2022

The District suffered a huge loss with the unexpected passing of Robin Rich-Coates. Robin started serving as a District volunteer in 1985 and then in January 1991 she became the first female Director to the Board.  She started serving as District Chair in 1997 until she passed away on May 10, 2022.  Not only was Robin serving as our local District Chair but also as Chair of the VA Association of Conservation Districts Education Committee. She had also been appointed by Governor Northam to the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. She was always active in local environmental education activities, including work with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the VA Institute of Marine Science, the Nature Conservancy and the Eastern Shore Environmental Education Council, just to name a few. During the 90’s, Robin was instrumental in starting an Eastern Shore Arbor Day event sponsored by the District where free trees have been disbursed annually in partnership with the Department of Forestry and others ever since. In 1993 after attending an event in Maryland, Robin was inspired to start the State’s first Envirothon competition on the Eastern Shore, so along with two others, she did just that. In her 40 year career as a teacher, 34 of those years were at the Eastern Shore Community College. Robin lived in Machipongo along with her husband Curtis and enjoyed all the Shore had to offer. Robin was a leader in all aspects of the word and the District will uphold its mission guided by her memory. 
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Fredrick "Fred" Holland, Jr. , April 5, 1966 - January 26, 2021

The District suffered another loss in 2021 with the unexpected passing of Fred Holland. Fred was elected in November 2003 and was currently serving as Vice Chair when he passed on January 26, 2021. He was a man of integrity, always striving to treat others with kindness and respect.  The Eastern Shore of Virginia not only lost one of it’s strongest agricultural advocates, but also a trusted friend and colleague. Fred was always willing to share a laugh, serve his community and help his fellow farmer. He played a vital role in VA Cooperative Extension Programs from hosting Accomack County Farm Tour Days to starring in YouTube videos about white potato production.  Dr. Mark Reiter, Director of the Eastern Shore AREC, described Fred perfectly when he stated, “You could not find a bigger advocate for agriculture than Fred, whether it was serving on a committee or advising us on a research project at the Eastern Shore AREC, you could count on Fred to give advice for the betterment of Eastern Shore ag”. Fred was a vital member of numerous farm and civic organizations and long-time active member of Salem United Methodist Church. He and his wife Lori, of over 30 years, have three beautiful daughters Olivia, Miranda and Claire. Fred will be forever missed.
  • 2022 Conservation Farmer of the Year Award:

The District awarded a local farmer Mark Newman of Eastville as the 2022 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.  Mark grew up working on the farm his father had purchased near Eastville and knew even as a young boy of 5 or 6 that he wanted to be a farmer. In 1984, following high school graduation from Bayside High School in VA Beach, Mark decided to begin farming full time. Mark’s grandfather had left him $1,000 and a 730 John Deere tractor as an inheritance. During the first season Mark made $104 profit and the next year lost $1000 but he continued to push forward.  Through the years and tireless efforts, he began to realize the life he had wanted as a young boy.  When he first started farming he only had 43 acres, but now the operation has grown to over 2,000 acres and he is a 4th generation farmer. Mark grows primarily corn and soybeans. He has grown vegetables and cotton in the past but now grows mostly grain.  He maintains a current Nutrient management plan and participates in the VA Ag BMP Cost Share program administered by the District.  Mark grows primarily winter rye as a cover crop.  (CLICK) Mark uses minimal tillage practices and equipment as well as low drift spray nozzles to more accurately apply Nitrogen to his crops. Mark also maintains buffers along drainage ditches to reduce soil and nutrient loss.  He is concerned about Ag conservation and tries to implement beneficial improvements to his farming operation.  Mark enjoys collecting toy tractors and has been a member of Peninsula Tractor Organization, a local antique tractor club, for many years. He enjoys attending the club’s parades and shows.  Mark enjoys spending time with his wife and kids. His children have all worked on the farm and are following in a family tradition of excellence through perseverance.The staff and Board of Eastern Shore SWCD would like to honor Mark with the Conservation Farmer Award for his tireless conservation efforts. Congratulations!
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Mark Newman (right) accepting award from District Chair, Nick Thomas (Left)
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Bill Dougherty (right) accepting award from District Chair, Nick Thomas (Left)
  • 2022 Conservation Forester Award:

Nominated by VA Department of Forestry (DOF), the District awarded Bill Dougherty of Hacks Neck 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.  Bill has worked closely with the VA Department of Forestry to manage the forest stands on his property situated at the mouth of Nandua Creek.  An in-depth Forest Stewardship plan was written to help guide forest management efforts in thinning a mid-rotation age loblolly pine stand, establishing new loblolly stands in old agricultural field sites, and establishing riparian buffers. When conducting these practices Bill has experimented with various planting methods and techniques to improve seeding and nursery stock survival, and benefit stand growth. Bill’s tract received a stewardship forest designation and is a certified Tree Farm.  We commend Bill for his outstanding accomplishments in forestry conservation and management. Congratulations!
  • 2022 Wildlife Conservationist Award:

Nominated by USDA NRCS Accomac Field Office, the District awarded David Rew, 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.  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 in which he was awarded in 2019 as well as the Grand Basin Award. Working in conjunction with NRCS and Private Land Biologist, Bob Glennon, 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 as an experiment 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. The largest plot was seeded in upland pollinator species that would more commonly be recommended to landowners.  The site was where the Virginia Eastern Shore Land Trust in conjunction with NRCS, held a popular “Pollinator Meadow Walk” to discuss options for landowners to establish their own pollinator habitat.  The Wildlife Conservationist Award recognizes David for his contribution in establishing and maintaining valuable habitat to support our Eastern Shore wildlife. The staff and Board of Eastern Shore SWCD would like to honor David with the Conservation Wildlife Award. Congratulations!
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David Rew (right) accepting award from District Chair, Nick Thomas (Left)
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John Malbon (right) accepting award from District Chair, Nick Thomas (Left)
  • 2022 Conservation Stewardship Award:

This year the District created a new award to acknowledge a deserving landowner who participated in the VCAP program to improve water quality on the Eastern Shore.  This year, the District’s 2022 Conservation Stewardship Award is presented to John Malbon.  John contacted the District in February of 2020 with an interest in constructing living shoreline on his historic property located along Occohannock Creek near Belle Haven. He was interested in VCAP through the District so an initial site visit was conducted and the site was evaluated. Bank erosion, rills and loss of native shoreline grasses was evident. Working with a local consultant, plans were drawn and applications were made to construct a 520 linear foot rock sill structure with five foot breaks every 100 feet. The breaks would be protected by coir logs to slow the initial tidal surges. Spartina Alterniflora (native marsh grass) would be planted behind the sill to establish a living shoreline and reduce the erosion issues. A total of 470 feet of the project was cost shared through VCAP, the balance John planted on his own.  However,the initial plantings were a little slow to establish and provided a tasty treat for the local geese population. Some portions of the initial plantings had to be replanted in 2021 to get a proper stand. At that point, the project had been in place for one year and positive changes were occuring along the re-established living shoreline.  During the most recent spot check conducted this past June, it was apparent that the replantings had taken hold and this living shoreline was in great condition and functioning as it should. The District would like to recognize John and award him with this Conservation Stewardship Award for his monumental efforts in establishing this Living Shoreline practice. Congratulations!
  • 2022 Conservation Educator Award:

Each year the District picks an educator who has made significant contributions towards educating others about our natural resources and conservation practices. This year, the District has chosen Phil Goetkin to receive the 2022 Conservation Educator Award for his outstanding commitment to educating and inspiring youth.  Phil did not start out in anything to do with kids or environmental education.  He earned a degree in economics and spent 10 years doing budgeting for the federal government before he realized he was more interested in landscaping. After many classes and seminars, he eventually left the federal government and started a landscaping business. After 30 years, he sold his landscaping business and went to work for Wolf Trap National Park for the Arts.  It was in this position that Phil became interested in native plants. He was instrumental in converting areas of the park to more natural landscaping with native plants.  One of his biggest accomplishments was converting a large area to a  natural meadow using native plants.  In 2015 Phil and Diane moved to Cape Charles to retire.  He saw New Roots Garden and rode his bike down to volunteer and eventually became a Board member.New Roots Garden is an all volunteer organization that teaches children about gardening and the environment by having them get their hands dirty.  In addition to gardening the garden boasts a compost area and a pollinator garden.  Phil is very active in the Master Gardeners and has been the president for the last 3 years and has been on the board since he moved here.  Last spring, Phil was instrumental in helping the District and VA Dept of Forestry organize this year’s Arbor Day celebration. He can be seen in this picture doing a yoga tree pose during the Arbor Day event. He also is active on the Cape Charles Tree Advisory Board.  Phil strives to  live by the mission of the National Park Service which is to preserve the natural and cultural resources for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.  Thank you Phil for the many contributions you have made to education and the environment on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
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Phil Goetkin (right) accepting award from District Chair, Nick Thomas (Left)
  • 2022 District Scholarships:

The District awarded one Wiliam H. Beasley, Sr. Memorial Scholarship and two W. Foster Fletcher Conservation Scholarships in the amount of $1,000 each to three students in 2022.    
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The William H. Beasley, Sr. Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Elan Hess who is currently a sophomore at  Appalachian State University majoring in Sustainable Development.
The W.Foster Fletcher Conservation Scholarship was awarded to William Sawyer Johnson who graduated from Broadwater Academy in June and is now a freshman at VA Tech majoring in Crop and Soils Science. 
The W. Foster Fletcher Conservation Scholarship was awarded to Kaeden John Rippon who graduated from Nandua High School in June and  is currently a freshman at the University of Virginia majoring in Environmental Sciences.
  • 2022 VASWCD Youth Conservation Campers:

For over 40 years, the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (VASWCD) annually sponsor a week-long summer conservation camp for VA high school students on the campus of Virginia Tech. Two students were selected by the District’s Endowment Committee to attend as the first recipients of the Fred Holland Memorial Camp Sponsorship. Claire Holland (Fred’s daughter) and Harley McNure attended the week of July 10th -16th , gave reports to the Board of their experiences and received support from the District 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. 
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 Claire Holland (Right) and Harley McNure (Left)
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Jim Evans (Right) accepting award from District Chair, Nick Thomas (Left)
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(Right to Left) Jim, his wife Cheryl, daughter Claire and son Jake
  • 2022 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 2022 Clean Water Farm Award was presented to Jim Evans of Evans Farms.  As the 2022 Clean Water Farm Awardee, the District has also nominated him for the 2022 Grand Coastal Basin Award.
 
Jim Evans was born and raised in Accomack County, VA. He grew up working on his father’s farm in Greenbush. After graduating high school, Jim went on to obtain his Bachelor’s in Physical Education. He taught P.E. for 20 years in two Accomack County schools. Throughout his teaching career, Jim continued to farm evenings and weekends. After reaching the 20 year mark of teaching, it became clear to him that farming was where his heart was and made a career change.
In 2004, he began construction of his farm buildings and acquiring larger modern farm machinery, as well as additional land.  The land he chose to build on had been farmed by three previous generations of his family that included his father, grandfather and great grandfather.
Jim grows primarily corn, soybeans, wheat and string beans on his 2,297 acre farm. Partnering with another producer, he now farms an additional 1,700 acres.  He maintains a current Nutrient Management Plan on all his acreage and uses plant tissue and soil testing to determine exactly what nutrients are needed and when, so he can limit runoff.  He annually participates in the cover crop program administered by the District planting wheat and barley cover crops to protect soil and water quality over the winter.  Jim uses no-till and strip-till systems to limit the amount of soil tillage.  Fertilizer is applied with fertilizer applicators that use precision technology to apply the right products at the right rates and at the right times, so nutrient use is accurate and efficient.
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 plot was planted to attract local pollinating insects and serve as an ecosystem for other wildlife.
This year, Jim was featured in the Virginia Agriculture 2022 edition.  I will quote an opening sentence, “While many of the State’s diverse agricultural growers are mindful of their roles in protecting the soil and water in the region, some rise to the top as leaders in demonstrating the value and effectiveness of conservation practices.”
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Left to Right: David Rew, Bill Doughterty, Mark Newman, Jim Evans, Phil Geotkin, John Malbon

Past Award Banquets:

2018 Eastern Shore SWCD Annual Awards Banquet

2019 Eastern Shore SWCD Annual Awards Banquet

Banquet NOT held in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid-19