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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 or in late fall. ​​

2023 Annual Awards Banquet

The 2023 Annual Awards Banquet was held on Tuesday, October 24, 2023, 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.
  • 2023 Conservation Farmer Award:

Each year the District acknowledges a local farmer who regularly applies best management practices to improve water quality and promote soil and water conservation.  In 2023, the District awarded Tommy and Tom Davis of Davis Farms of New Church with the Conservation Farmer Award.  The Davis’s are grain farmers and grow wheat, soybeans and corn. They practice no-till farming exclusively with minimal turbo till use. Striving for maximum residue and minimal soil disturbance,  a special chopper header has been added to maximize residue cover on fields. They participate in the District’s annual cover crop programs and plant cover crops of vetch, barley and winter wheat to reduce erosion and nitrogen leaching as well as provide a good residue base for the next field crop. Besides planting cover crops, the Davis’ maintain 25ft buffers around field edges with streams or sensitive areas. Clover is planted to help reduce crop loss and to support local wildlife. The Davis’ also maintain a current nutrient management plan with the District.  The staff and Board of the Eastern Shore SWCD awarded Tommy and Tom Davis of Davis Farms with the Conservation Farmer Award for their tireless conservation efforts. 
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Tom and Tommy Davis (father and son) harvesting together in 2023
  • 2023 Conservation Forester Award:

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. Nominated by VA Department of Forestry (DOF) Eastern Shore Office, the District awarded Walter Potter of Whitehall Farm near Pungoteague. The forest stands on the tract are managed using traditional forest management practices to benefit wildlife habitat for hunting, timber production, and aesthetics.  The tract is a Stewardship Forest, and a Virginia Tree Farm. The most recent practice conducted was a precommercial thinning in 2021.  Precommercial thinning is done to reduce stocking in young loblolly pine stands and improve growing conditions.  The results of this precommercial thinning can be viewed from the Harborton Road, close to its intersection with Burton Road.  The staff and Board of the Eastern Shore SWCD awarded Walter Potter  with the Conservation Forester Award for his tireless conservation efforts.  
  • 2023 Conservation Partner Award:

New in 2023, the District recognized a conservation partner who works with Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to enhance wildlife habitat and to protect water quality. Nominated by the NRCS Accomack Office, the 2023 Conservation Partner Award was presented to Chase Colmorgen, a Farm Bill Biologist with Duck’s Unlimited.  This award recognizes Chase’s outstanding efforts in wildlife conservation and management.  The Working Lands for Wildlife Black Duck Program partnership with NRCS and Ducks Unlimited started in 2019 with the intent to increase enrollment in wetland-related projects delivered through the Farm Bill. Chase and other DU staff members assist NRCS with landowner correspondence, assessing site suitability, drawing engineered designs, and overseeing construction of shallow water impoundments. Under this partnership framework, NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) provides a cost-share opportunity for landowners looking to create and enhance shallow water areas through the black duck initiative fund pool.  Targeted areas of interest for the program were selected through the Black Duck Decision Support Tool, with focus on the Delmarva Peninsula. Since 2019, work in the Eastern Shore of Virginia included 42 one-on-one correspondences with landowners and of these, 21 have signed up and have either completed a project or are in-process to complete a project through NRCS. Approximately 11 acres of wetlands have been restored through the Black Duck Program, with more acres pending design and construction.  Chase’s outreach work has included public workshops and a local radio interview with NRCS to promote the program. Chase & Ducks Unlimited are committed to assisting with NRCS programs and the Black Duck Program for the foreseeable future. The Eastern Shore Soil & Water Conservation District recognized Chase Colmorgen of Duck’s Unlimited with the 2023 Conservation Partner Award for all of his conservation efforts.
Whitehall Farm near Pungotegue, VA
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Chase Colmorgen of Duck's Unlimited
  • 2023 Conservation Stewardship Award:

The District awards deserving landowners who participated in the VCAP program to improve water quality on the Eastern Shore.  The District’s 2023 Conservation Stewardship Award was presented to Don and Karen Smith.  When the Smiths purchased property at the end of Occohannock Neck in 2004, they were aware that it had some bank undercutting and erosion issues that would have to be addressed but over the next 16 years they were working full- time and building a house on the property. By 2022, it became apparent to them that something would have to be done soon. Trees along the waterfront began to topple over as a direct result of the erosion and undercutting. The Smiths read an article in the Eastern Shore Post about VCAP and contacted the District in August of 2022 to investigate the possibility of installing a Living Shoreline practice on the property.  The 110 linear foot sill line was marked with poles. After corresponding with VIMS, it was decided to construct the sill using oyster bags in place of rock sills. The bags were placed on a mat of Geotech fabric for stability. Sand was brought in to fill what was lost to erosion and spartina alterniflora plugs were planted.  Most VCAP Living Shorelines rely on professional engineers for plan drawing and private consultants for navigating the hurdles of the approval process. The Smiths did the research themselves and even drafted their own plans through DCR guidance. The Smiths were fortunate in being able to act as their own engineer and project consultant. The Eastern Shore Soil & Water Conservation District recognized Don & Karen Smith  and awarded them with the 2023 Conservation Stewardship Award for all of their conservation efforts related to the success of their Living Shoreline practice.   
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Don and Karen Smith
  • 2023 Conservation Educator Award:

Each year the District chooses an educator who has made significant contributions towards educating others about our natural resources and conservation practices.  In 2023, the District chose a 5th grade teacher at Accawmacke Elementary, Kathy Henley, to receive the 2023 Conservation Educator Award for her outstanding commitment to educating and inspiring youth. Kathy has an bachelor of science in Elementary Education from  Pfeiffer University.  She has participated in many science PD’s including “Teacher Camp” with the Nature Conservancy and a summer PD with the UVA Anheuser Busch Coastal Research Center in Oyster.  She also serves on the Coastal Resilience Committee with the Nature Conservancy.  Kathy came from a family of teachers, so teaching seemed like a normal path to take.  She stated;  “As a student, I always helped classmates with math and other projects, so the love of teaching was always in me.  When my students get excited about learning and the light bulb goes off, it inspires me to continue in my career path”.  When asked about the importance of environmental education, Kathy replied “We only have one Earth.  If we don’t take care of it, there won’t be an earth left for future generations.  We have to instill the love of our world in our students so they will want to protect it.  This love and respect is encouraged with hands-on exploration and involvement in nature (woods, bays, animals, plants, etc..) Children can fall in love with nature by going camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, bird watching, kayaking, walking on the beach collecting shells, and many other ways.  It is important to get our children out in nature and build their love and respect for our beautiful Eastern Shore.”  As a daughter of a farmer, Kathy was raised to appreciate the lands and waters of the Eastern Shore.  A quote she often heard growing up was “Look after the land it will look after you; destroy the land and it will destroy you.”  The staff and Board of the Eastern Shore SWCD awarded Kathy Henley with the Conservation Educator Award for the many contributions she has made to education on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
Kathy Henley, 5th Grade Teacher
Accawmacke Elementary School
  • 2023 Clean Water Farm Awardee:

The Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries have 11,684 miles of shoreline—more than the entire U.S. west coast.  Approximately 51 billion gallons of water flow into the Bay each day.  It is important we all do our part to keep our waterways clean so we are pleased to recognize farmers who are good stewards of our soil and water resources.  The Clean Water Farm award, is a State award sponsored by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, DCR, given to Virginia farmers who implement nutrient management plans and are exemplary in their protection of the State’s soil and water resources. The 2023 Clean Water Farm Award was presented to Shelton Alley.  Shelton settled on the Eastern Shore in 2010 in a home surrounded by approximately 100 acres of farmland, 100 acres of marshland, and 100 acres of woodlands. Prior to calling the Eastern Shore home, he grew up in Northern Virginia and spent 10 years living in Puerto Rico. He worked with his uncle on their family farm raising cattle and growing coffee, plantains, teak, and limes.  Shelton participates in District cost share programs and maintains a crop rotation a corn, soybean, wheat and cover crop in hopes to turn his farm over to the next generation in better shape than when he acquired it. Using this rotation, he hopes to deplete the Eastern Shore’s excessive weed bank.  His lightweight UTV pull behind sprayer allows for precision spraying practices while limiting soil compaction and disturbance. Shelton uses no-till equipment to reduce soil erosion and nutrient runoff into the sea and freshwater waterways. Since Shelton has been actively farming his tillable acres, he has maintained an annual nutrient management plan with the district through funding from the NM-1A practice. Through the small grain cover & vetch cover crop programs through the district, He has consistently planted a fall cover crop. This fall, his vetch cover was aerially applied. His most recent project of a handmade roller-crimper will allow for him to incorporate his legume cover crop into the soil to increase the soil’s available nitrogen and decrease the use of chemicals.  Along with farming, Steward is an avid steward of the environment. When he first moved into his home here, his first undertaking was controlling the invasive phragmites on the marsh. He observed the diamondback terrapins struggling to return to the marsh after laying eggs on mainland. Using manual and chemical methods, he has cleared practically all of the invasive species. The native grasses have returned.  One of his irrigation ponds of his property was built in the 1950’s and is full of wildlife. He quickly found that elvers, young eels, utilized the freshwater pond during their maturation process but struggled to return to the sea when they were biologically ready. He constructed a form of ladder that allows them an easier enter and exit into the pond during higher tides. Avian species are also very important to Mr. Alley, he has planted button bushes and built nesting boxes for wood ducks. He has created soft edges along  his property lines for quail habitats and planted food sources to allow for the quail to have food for all four seasons.  The staff and Board of Eastern Shore SWCD felt Shelton was well deserving of this award and was a model steward of the land so much so, they also nominated him for the Grand Coastal Basin Award . 
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Shelton Alley, 2023 Clean Water 
Farm Awardee
  • 2023 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 two students in 2023.    
The W. Foster Fletcher Conservation Scholarship was awarded to Turner Saunders who graduated from Nandua High School in June and is now a freshman at VA Tech majoring in Wildlife Conservation.
The W. Foster Fletcher Conservation Scholarship was awarded to Colin Hopper who graduated from Northampton High School in June and is now a freshman at VA Tech majoring in Agribusiness.
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