Mountain, Soil and Water Conservation District Assists and Awards Farmers – Part 1
Landowners and farmers in the counties of Alleghany, Bath, and Highland, as well as the city of Covington, have a resource to help with land and water stewardship in the form of the Mountain, Soil and Water Conservation District. Vice Chair, Terry King, explains more on the organization and how folks can take advantage of all it provides. He says, “We’re one of many conservation districts, and the whole goal is to preserve the environment, but yet use the land to its best advantage, so basically what we do is we help the farmer, and any landowner really, with technical support, and we provide resources that will help them promote good, clean farming where the soil and water stewardship is practiced. Basically, we do this through what we call BMP’s, Best Management Practices, where we will award them pretty much 75% of any project that improves the use of the land, whether it be fencing cattle out of a stream that empties in to one of our watersheds, whether it be doing a type of no-seed tilling that keeps erosion down, anything related to animal waste management, stream bank stabilization, nutrient management, that sort of thing, and it’s been around for years. We’re funded through the Feds and the State, and, of course, each municipality that we serve gives us money also.
“Mainly what we’re spending most of our money on, and it’s a good thing, is on fencing cattle out of the streams that empty in to the Chesapeake Bay. It’s all a part of that big approach to preserving the Bay and cleaning it up, and we try to work hand in hand, and we’ve done a pretty good job. There’s still lots of projects and lots of room for improvement. One of our major contributions, I think, in addition to the funding of various projects, is a lot of farmers can’t afford equipment that really helps with the preserving and the land, and so at a very low cost, we’ll rent them no-till seeders. We do a lot to help with the spraying of invasive species, particularly Multiflora rose. We just basically provide any equipment that we can at a low cost: drags, litter spreaders, fertilize, lime spreaders, all that. We even have a weed wiper, so it’s kind of unique to our area, but it takes a lot of work, but that’s one of our major endeavors.”
The District even provides free willow trees from a nursery of Fassifern Farm to anyone with erosion issues on their streams. In the last five years, the District has funded over 1.2 million dollars to farmers who utilize Best Management Practices. Mr. King further explains why all of this is important: “Number one, our landowners and our farmers are under a lot of pressure to make a profit. Farming, clearly to me, is one of the most puristic approaches to earning a living, and we just want to be a part of the solution, and we’re not out there trying to mandate rules. Yes, we do have the right if we see where somebody is polluting the river or causing an erosion issue, we can actually write it up and send it to DEQ and kind of be a watchdog, but we try to avoid that. We want to be positive, and our whole group is just passionate about preserving the environment.”
Two Highland County residents, Chuck and Lou Ann Neely of Riven Rock and Rainbow Springs Farms, were recently presented with the 2017 Clean Water Farm Award in recognition of their outstanding farm conservation management practices. We’ll have more on that in Part 2 of this story.
The Mountain, Soil and Water Conservation District’s main office is located in the Bath County Courthouse, and they can be reached at 540-839-4616. The public is also invited to attend meetings with the district and its partners every third Wednesday of the month at the Bath County Public Library, restarting in January of 2018.