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Piedmont SWCD and Prince Edward County

You may be wondering what difference the Piedmont Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) makes in Prince Edward County. Great question! We ask ourselves the same question at the end of each program year (July 1-June 30), when we compile our annual report outlining our accomplishments and milestones over the past year. Keep reading to find out the work we’ve done in Prince Edward County this year, and be on the lookout for our complete annual report, which is posted on our website at www.piedmontswcd.org.

Education is an important part of the District’s work, whether in the form of putting on classroom programs for local students, hosting the annual poster contest or supporting the Envirothon program, a natural resource competition for high schoolers. Additionally, each year, through the Lindy Hamlett Education Scholarship Fund, the District offers $1,000 scholarships to high school seniors and college students. These scholarships give financial support to students planning to enroll or currently enrolled full-time in a college curriculum related to natural resource conservation, agriculture and/or environmental studies. This year, two of the recipients were Prince Edward residents: Kenneth Townsend, who is enrolled in Virginia Tech’s Forestry Operations and Business program, and Andrew Murphy, who attends Bridgewater College and plans to major in agribusiness or environmental science.

In addition to educational activities, the Piedmont SWCD assists with natural resource conservation in the counties it serves: Amelia, Nottoway and Prince Edward. This year, through a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund, the District established six pollinator gardens at High Bridge Trail State Park, Twin Lakes State Park, Prince Edward County High School, Fuqua School, Full Circle Nature School, and Longwood University Environmental Education Center. Perennials and shrubs that are native to Prince Edward County were planted in the gardens. The native plants and the insects they attract will enhance the diversity of species in the area and will provide citizens and students the opportunity to learn more about pollinator species and the plants they utilize.

In the agricultural sector, the Piedmont SWCD offers voluntary cost-share programs that provide financial incentives for individuals to install approved Best Management Practices (BMPs) on their property. Cost-share is paired with the participant’s out-of-pocket investment in BMPs that take into consideration the soil and water quality problems of a site and correct them with the appropriate conservation projects. This program year, the Virginia Agricultural BMP program provided a total of $148,181 in cost-share funds to Prince Edward County farmers and producers. The funds were used for various BMPs, including 11,636 feet (2.2 miles) of stream exclusion and 1,645 acres of cover crops. Stream exclusion fences livestock out of streams and provides an alternative water source, such as a well connected to troughs, so that livestock won’t pollute the water with manure as they drink from the stream. Planting cover crops following a harvest of soybeans, corn, and other crops keeps soil and nutrients in the fields by helping to prevent erosion, therefore leading to more fertile land and reduced sediment and nutrient pollution entering local streams. Additionally, Piedmont SWCD offers cost-share for septic maintenance and repairs, which help prevent sewage runoff from polluting local streams. This program year, the District paid a total of $75,238 in cost-share funds to Prince Edward County residents for 29 septic tank pump-outs and 20 septic system repairs. To see if you are eligible for this program, contact Emily Gibbs at (434) 392-3782 ext. 131 or egibbs@piedmontswcd.org.

While this is just a snapshot of what the Piedmont SWCD accomplished in Prince Edward County during the last program year, we are always striving to increase our presence in the community and improve the environment around us. We hope to partner with you in the coming year, whether it is connecting with you at a community event, educating your child during classroom programs or camps, or discussing ways to improve the soil and water quality on your farm or at your residence.

EMILY GIBBS is the Residential Conservation and Marketing Coordinator at Piedmont Soil & Water Conservation. You can contact her at (434) 392-3782 ext. 131 or visit www.piedmontswcd.org.