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November 21, 2019

Soil and water conservation partners receive recognition

Contributed Photos
Edwin F. Gulick Conservation Educator Award winner O.B. Messick & Sons of Midland has hosted more than 5,000 local students at Conservation Field Days since 1995.
Cattle on Smitten Farms near The Plains, where conservation efforts include nutrient management, cover crops, long-term vegetative cover on cropland, continuous no-till, precision ag, prescribed grazing and forested buffers.
The John Marshall Soil & Water Conservation District recently honored Fauquier landowners and organizations for their contributions to stop soil erosion and improve water quality.

Founded in 1966, the agency has worked with farmers to protect hundreds of miles of Fauquier streams. Over the last three decades, it has paid more than $9 million in “cost share” reimbursements for fencing, alternative water systems, hardened stream crossings and other improvements. JMSWCD also conducts extensive educational programs with county schools, manages tree-planting campaigns, helps homeowners repair damaged septic systems, monitors water quality and provides other technical assistance.

The district staff presented held its annual awards during a Nov. 13 luncheon at the John Barton Payne Community Hall in Warrenton. The recipients:


• Edwin F. Gulick Conservation Educator Award to O.B. Messick & Sons.

The Messicks in 1995 began hosting Conservation Field Days on their Midland property for Fauquier County students. Since then, they have hosted a total of 29 field day events with students from three middle schools, two elementary schools, two private schools and various homeschool groups.

These conservation field days introduce students to agriculture and natural resource conservation. Students rotate to different stations, which may include Dairy Operations, Farm Management, Insects, Forestry, Water/Watersheds, Nutrient Management, Soils and Composting.

Over the past 24 years, the Messicks have welcomed 5,255 students, teachers and chaperones to their farm, providing education in agriculture, natural resources and conservation.


• Conservation Partner Award to the Virginia Department of Forestry’s Rappahannock Work Area.

Area foresters serve as technical service providers to the full slate of forestry practices in the Virginia Agricultural Cost-Share Program, which JMSWCD administers, and NRCS Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program practices.

The Rappahannock area team is also a key partner for riparian buffer plantings that are installed after stream exclusion practices, including those conducted with community organizations and schools. In the past seven years, the area team has assisted the John Marshall district and more than 1,000 volunteers with planting 65.8 acres of riparian buffer.

Foresters also complete planting plans, store seedlings and other supplies, provide planting instruction and logistical support during community planting events. The forestry team assists with the district’s Conservation Field Days and on average, reach about 750 students just in their work with JMSWCD.


• Conservation Farm Award to Virginia Farms LLC.

Virginia Farms, just west of Delaplane, includes 1,200 acres with about 400 head of cattle. Over the last 10 years, the Chester family in partnership with their tenant farmer Virginia Beef Corp., has completed four separate grazing land protection practices which in total have protected over 25,600 linear feet (4.8 miles) of stream bank in the Goose Creek Watershed. These efforts have created more than 120 acres of riparian buffer.

The farm plans to complete another project in fiscal 2020 and another in fiscal 2021 on 485 acres of pasture. Once complete, the projects will protect an additional 20,000 feet (3.8 miles) of stream bank and create an additional 53 acres of riparian buffer. It will constitute one of the largest individual livestock stream exclusion efforts completed in the Fauquier County portion of the Goose Creek Watershed.


• Clean Water Farm Award to Ann Backer and Smitten Farm.

Smitten Farm, near The Plains, is comprised of two 800-acre farms, Smitten and Salem. Once a traditional row-crop farm, it has transitioned mainly to a permanent grass operation for hay and straw with very little acreage in row crops today.

The operation’s conservation ethic began when the late Bill Backer witnessed the area becoming more and more developed. Mr. Backer saw a need not only for open space, but contiguous open space. Conservation practices implemented on the farm include nutrient management, cover crops, long-term vegetative cover on cropland, continuous no-till, precision ag, prescribed grazing and forested buffers, of which there are more than 170 acres.

Animals are excluded from all but 10 percent of streams on the property. The remaining area is being addressed through conservation planning efforts. Horse manure is traded to local mushroom producers and used in the growing process. The mushroom compost returns the farm to be used in poor production areas.


• Special Recognition Letter to Sarah Costella and Alexandra Avery.

The district also recognized Sarah Castella and Alex Avery of the Farm Service Agency for their outstanding efforts with their consistently prompt, professional assistance in initiating the conservation planning process with accurate farm maps, as well as their ongoing promotion of programs and services that benefit the agricultural community. Their willingness to readily assist the district helps ensure schedules are met.

The information provided is critical to generating accurate watershed location information and avoiding the duplication of services.

2019 John Marshall SWCD Awa... by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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