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January 2, 2018

Soil, water conservation supporters receive awards

Contributed Photo
Award winners (from left): Daron Culbertson of Willingham Farms near Remington, Jason Payne of Crest Hill Landscaping at Hume, PEC staff members Clair Catlett and Celia Vuocolo, The Volgenau Foundation Executive Director Maryanna Kiefer, PEC President Chris Miller, Jim Hankins of the Fauquier Education Farm and Susan Sloane of Gone Away Farm near The Plains.
Five Fauquier County individuals and organizations recently received awards for soil and water conservation efforts in 2017.

The John Marshall Soil & Water Conservation District hosted its annual awards luncheon Dec. 19 at Stoneridge Events Center just outside of Warrenton.


Clean Water Farm Award
Daron Culbertson

Mr. Culbertson of Remington co-owns and manages Willingham Farms, a purebred Hereford and commercial cattle operation his late grandfather, Alton Willingham, established in Southern Fauquier about 50 years ago.

Over the last four years, he completed a total of five stream exclusion practices at his family’s two farms, protecting 3.5 miles of stream bank and creating 26 acres of riparian buffer. A portion of the new stream buffer has been planted back with native trees and shrubs.

In addition, Mr. Culbertson has expanded his use of rotational grazing, which allows for more efficient forage utilization and prevents soil compaction and erosion.

He also was selected as the Grand Winner for the Rappahannock River Basin, one of only 10 basin awards given across the state. Mr. Culbertson received that award Dec. 4 from Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward at the 2017 Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts’ conference in Portsmouth.

Willingham Farms became the third Southern Fauquier agricultural operation selected for the Rappahannock River Basin award in five years. Frank Ott of Marshfield Farms receiving the award in 2014, and Carla and Claude Chapman of Chapman Farm won it in 2013.

All three winners are in the Marsh Run sub-watershed of the upper Rappahannock. Although the stream remains on the state’s impaired waters list for periodic high bacteria counts, citizens who volunteer to monitor water quality have noted marked improvements in specific stretches of Marsh Run.


Conservation Partner Award
Piedmont Environmental Council

For the past several years, PEC staff members and volunteers consistently have assisted in the promotion of the district’s conservation goals, particularly the installation of stream exclusion practices, the restoration of the Thumb Run watershed and most recently, the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program that addresses urban stormwater issues.

With assistance from the Volgenau Foundation, PEC hosted a series of community meetings in that Thumb Run watershed that shared with residents the results of scientific studies and the availability of funds for habitat and water quality improvement projects. PEC consistently has invited JMSWCD staff members to participate and promote programs at many of its events. PEC also has been instrumental in helping host the annual “From the Rappahannock, For the Rappahannock” celebration at Marriot Ranch.


Edwin Gulick Conservation Educator Award
Jim Hankins, Fauquier Education Farm

As executive director of the Fauquier Education Farm, Mr. Hankins works to educate local citizens about agriculture. He leads annual multi-week classes called the “Beginning Farmer Program” and “Getting Your Hands Dirty,” focused on the basics of how to grow vegetables.

Mr. Hankins also leads 10 evening workshops a year on topics ranging from the world of watermelons and how to use cover crops to organic pest control. He has allowed the conservation district to host events at the farm, including the 2015 Area II Envirothon competition for high school students. He has hosted the district’s third grade farm field days and taught a station on vegetable crops. Over the past two years, the farm has hosted nearly 650 third-graders, some of whom have never been to a farm before.


Conservation Contractor Award
Jason Payne, Crest Hill Landscaping LLC

Over the last several years Crest Hill Landscaping of Hume has demonstrated exceptional professionalism and effort in its assistance with the installation of Agricultural Best Management Practices in Fauquier County.

Mr. Payne and his crew have installed more than 14,000 feet of stream protection fence for multiple landowners on multiple projects in many challenging landscapes. He has approached this work with an open mind and always looks to learn from each project. The award recognizes the quality of work.


Conservation Farm Award
Gone Away Farm

Farms owners Susan and Stanton Sloane began working with JMSWCD in 2013. Their first project involved fencing two ponds on the north side of their property near The Plains and developing an alternative water source. That protected 1,600 linear feet of stream bank, created an acre of buffer and improved grazing on 34 acres.

Their second project involved the development of two springs that supplied water to a gravity trough as well as the construction of a stream crossing to allow passage between two fields. That work protected another 1,200 feet of stream bank, created another acre of buffer and improved grazing on 13 acres of pasture.

Last spring the farm owners partnered with JMSWCD, the Goose Creek Association and Highland School to plant one of these buffers to native hardwood trees and shrubs. That provided exceptional educational opportunity for students as they discussed soils, riparian corridors, wetlands and the benefits of conservation practices.
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BJ · January 2, 2018 at 8:03 pm
Wonderful and much deserved awards!
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