Halifax Soil and Water Conservation District hands out awards at banquet – YourGV.com

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James Church received the Halifax Soil and Water Conservation District’s cooperator of the year award at the organization’s yearly ceremony hosted recently.Approximately 35 invited guests, district directors and staff enjoyed a meal prior to the presentation of awards.Luke Hudson, district specialist, recognized Church as the 2021 cooperator of the year. Church has been involved with many cost-share programs and has attended a variety of outreach programs hosted by Halifax Soil and Water Conservation District and partner agencies.

One program he utilizes is Cover Crop. That offers cost-share or tax credit for producers willing to plant a winter cover crop to trap nutrients and reduce runoff and erosion. By doing that, more nutrients remain on the field for the following cash crop to take up.Cover crops have a wide variety of benefits from improving organic matter to smothering out nuisance weeds. Different cover crop species and mixtures can be used to address specific farm needs. Church has seen improvements in his crop fields due in part to planting cover crops where he can.

District director Rebakah Slabach (far right) celebrates with Food Plot Winners at the Halifax Soil and Water Conservation District’s annual banquet.

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Wildlife Food Plot Contest AwardsRebekah Slabach, district director, presented the Wildlife Food Plot Contest Awards to the young conservationists who had outstanding food plots in the annual competition sponsored by the district, Bobcat’s Bait and Tackle, Abbott Farm Garden and Gun and Delegate James Edmunds. This year bags of seed and planting instructions were made available to over 20 area youth.This year the winners were split up into two age categories, and the top three from each category were recognized. Third place from the junior division was Will Payne, and third place for the senior division was Cassidy Bomar. Payne and Bomar received a $25 gift card from Abbott’s Farm Garden and Gun and a field box donated by Bobcat’s.Second place for the junior division was Graham Hall, and second place for the senior division was Caleb Bomar. Both second place winners received a fishing rod purchased from Bobcat’s by the district.The first-place winners were Alyssa Jo Sneed for the junior division and Paul Irby for the senior division. They each won a game camera purchased with funds donated by Edmunds.Wildlife AwardTyler Newton, with Quail Forever and Department of Wildlife Resources, presented the Wildlife Award to J.G. Hurt. Hurt has thinned his pine stand, prescribe burned his pine savanna and controlled invasive species to provide exceptional wildlife habitat. Newton said his level of commitment to wildlife conservation is evident when riding through his property.

All his work is not without reward. He has several coveys of quail throughout his managed property.Melissa Waller, district education and outreach specialist, recognized Michael Roberts as the 2021 Educator of the Year.He has helped with various programs and has been a key guest speaker at the past three Watershed Adventure Camps. Roberts was out west on a hunting trip during the awards banquet.Larry Younger was recognized with the 2021 Forestry Award. Younger was nominated by Laura Guthrie with the Virginia Department of Forestry.Over the years, Younger has completed numerous timber harvest operations from thinnings to total harvests. He also has utilized Department of Forestry Reforestation of Timberlands cost-share program numerous times. He has taken advantage of the Riparian Buffer tax credit program on several total harvests.He receives professional advice on all of his timber tracts, either from the division or a consulting forester. Whether it is a management plan, a harvest recommendation or general management advice; he does his diligence to ensure his properties are managed well. Overall, he is a good steward, diligent landowner and land manager.Clean Water Farm AwardThe evening was wrapped up with presenting the Clean Water Farm Award, established in 1986 by the Virginia Secretary of Natural Resource.This program was established to recognize farmers who are committed to conserving natural resources and being good stewards of the land. Each year the Halifax Soil and Water Conservation Districts are given the responsibility of selecting a worthy recipient from the district they serve.This year the winner is Ben Elliott. Through the Virginia AG BMP Cost-Share program, Elliott was able to receive funding to protect the surface water resources on his farm and set his pastures up for a rotational grazing system. Fencing out creeks and streams allows a buffer of dense vegetation to grow, and this buffer helps trap nutrients and sediment from entering the water supply.Fencing out creeks and streams also prevents cattle from directly depositing waste into the water supply and helps prevents bank erosion from cattle walking in and out of the water. The dense buffer area is also good for wildlife habitat.The cost-share program also allows for installing cross fencing to distribute grazing. The district was able to create four permanent paddocks with the option to use temporary fence to further divide each section. Having more paddocks increases the grazing intensity of the herd and distributes manure over each paddock more efficiently. Frost-free watering troughs were installed as the new water source for the cattle, they were placed in specific areas on the farm to help facilitate the rotational grazing system. Elliott installed his own exclusion fencing, cross fencing and water troughs.

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