The Chowan Basin Soil & Water Conservation District is one of 47 in Virginia and one of more than 3,000 in the world.
The Chowan Basin covers Greensville, Southampton and Sussex counties, providing information and technical assistance to farmers voluntarily enrolling in the group’s practices to prevent soil erosion and improve water quality.
“Our goal is to provide and promote leadership in the conservation of natural resources through stewardship and educational programs,” Conservation Education Technician for Greensville and Sussex County Jennifer Coker said.
Walter Robinson, a Greensville County representative on the Chowan Basin’s Board of Directors said one of the most important services provided by the organization is the “Cover Crop” Program. The green fields seen this time of year on rural land has the green color due to a cover crop. Those going through the Chowan Basin Soil & Water Conservation District will plant the crop and will get paid anywhere from $40 to $48 an acre.
“The cover crop will save the soil as well as the water,” Robinson said. “Without cover crop out there the soil will be bare, sometimes for five months of the year. If there is nothing on it and we get a big rain there will be soil down in a ditch bank. This is the most soil and water saving program and it’s paying off.”
Jimmy Ferguson and Anthony Gillus also represent Greensville County on the Board of Directors.
Other programs bringing an assist to farmers include Tire Amnesty and Oil Recycling. The Chowan Basin Soil & Water Conservation District provides barrels for those involved in the program to keep them from dumping oil on the farmland and negatively impacting the soil and water. The barrels are picked up and the oil is disposed of in a safe manner.
Having new tires put on a vehicle at an auto shop is only one step for the workers at the shop. The tires must be disposed of safely and it is the shop taking the responsibility of making sure it is done. Farmers do not have that luxury. The Tire Amnesty Program for agricultural producers is producing results. In February 1,406 tires were collected in Southampton County. Sussex County and Greensville County had 213 and 123 tires collected to be disposed of, respectively.
Educational outreach to schools in the district is also a feature of the Chowan Basin Soil & Water Conservation District. Individual Farm Days are held in each county. Greensville County’s is in the fall.
“Jessie and Susan Harrell’s Farm down Purdy Rd. is where we have about 200 to 250 kids from the third grade come to learn about agriculture,” Coker said. “I have about 70 volunteers from federal or other agencies we work with hand in hand to set up stations and teach the students different aspects of farming. We want to teach the kids that they can’t just go into Walmart and the food is already there. It comes from the farmer. You don’t have the farmer out working, you don’t have anything.”
In the fall Coker recruits Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, church youth groups and others to collect trash at Veterans Memorial Park out to the waterways surrounding the site. Every single piece of trash collected is documented and sent to the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies in order to develop plans to keep waterways clean.
Coker said the district works with Sara Rutherford of the Greensville Emporia Virginia Cooperative Extension Service Office as well as Melvin Hill, Debbie Day and Karen Watkins of the local Farm Service Agency. Conservation partners representing the Greensville-Sussex Natural Resources Conservation Service partnering with the Chowan Basin are Harvey Baker and Emily Browning Aleshire.
Coker is one of three people working in the Chowan Basin Soil & Water Conservation District office. Sue Morris is the director and Austin Magruder is the Conservation Education Technician for Southampton County.
If an agricultural issue pops up in Greensville County, it is likely the Chowan Basin Soil & Water Conservation District will be involved in coming up with a solution.