Evergreen holds an annual Awards Banquet every year to recognize the people in the community who have made strong strides towards conservation. It is our way of recognizing just some of the hard work that goes into protecting and enhancing Smyth County’s natural resources.
The 2016 award recipients were (left to right) Billy Bear, Billy Lawson, Randy Lawson, Lonnie Roberts, Virginia Roberts, Laurinda Sturgill, Margaret Musselwhite and John Musselwhite
Clean Water Farm Award
The 2016 Clean Water Farm Award went to Lawson Livestock and Land. It is owned and operated by Randy Lawson and Billy Lawson along with Randy’s wife Allison and their two daughters Ryleigh and Reed, and Billy’s fiancée Christiania Gobble. The Lawsons first became concerned about water and forage quality in 2003 when they bought their first farm. Since then they have installed EQIP, CREP, and BMPs on four of their farms in Smyth County.
One of the first goals of each project was to establish a protected buffer area to keep the livestock out of the streams and rivers. They established over 140 acres of protected stream buffers in the South Fork, fenced off 11,800 feet of the North Fork, and 188 feet of woodland exclusion. The Lawsons also completed massive weed removal, brush management, and critical area planting on eroded slopes.
They hold to an extensive management system with 152.5 acres in Nutrient Management Plans and 439 acres in Rotational Grazing Plans. Since beginning their Conservation Plans, their water and forage quality have improved so much that they were able to increase their cattle numbers by 40%. They are looking forward to sharing their farming goals with their next generation.
John Waddle Conservation Family Award
The 2016 John Waddle Conservation Family Award went to Lonnie and Virginia Roberts. They moved here from Maryland in 2013 and began putting conservation on the ground almost immediately. They excluded 1,354 feet of stream on their farm to protect 3.4 acres of stream bank planted in hardwoods and shrubs. These practices have greatly improved the health of the stream that flows into the Middle Fork of the Holston River. They also built 2,731 feet of fence to exclude their woodlands from the livestock to enhance the wildlife habitat. Along with the water and woodland exclusion, the Roberts also installed an alternative livestock watering system to provide their livestock with cleaner drinking water.
The Roberts have been very generous with their time when it comes to teaching others about conservation. They led a TMDL Farm Field Day at their farm and hosted Boy Scout Troop 832 on a farm tour. The Boy Scout troop was completing work for a Conservation Badge so the Roberts helped explain and show firsthand the importance of preventing non-point source pollution and how responsible farm management improves livestock gains.
Friend of Conservation Award
The 2016 Friend of Conservation Award went to Billy Bear. Bear was elected a director of Evergreen SWCD starting on January 1, 2016. He was appointed as Vice Chairman of the board and has been an active member ever since—serving on several committees, assisting with district education outreach and helping with general district operating responsibilities.
Bear has had a heart for conservation for several years. He was worked for NRCS for 34 years before retiring in 2005 as a civil engineering technician. The other Evergreen Directors and staff appreciate Billy for giving of himself and his time for the District.
Conservation Educator Award
The 2016 Conservation Educator Award went to Laurinda Sturgill, Program Associate of the Smyth County 4-H Youth Development Program. She coached the 2016 4-H Envirothon team sponsored by Evergreen SWCD. The Envirothon competition is North America’s largest environmental science competition. Sturgill was instrumental in the success of this team. The 4-H Envirothon team placed second overall in the Area Competition, earning them a spot in the State Competition where they placed third in the Wildlife category. It was also the first time the coaches and team members had competed in this competition.
Sturgill is involved in Smyth County’s third, forth, and fifth grade classrooms doing several in person hands on lessons. She started the Nature Project that requires children to get outside and explore the outdoors. She encourages Smyth County youth to get outside, learn and have fun. Teaching the importance of conservation and appreciation for our natural resources can never start too young.
The 2016 Evergreen Forestry Award went to John and Margaret Musselwhite for their work and accomplishments on Hawks Nest Farm, near the community of Teas. They have owned the property for over 10 years and recently made it their permanent residence.
In 2013 the couple contacted the Department of Forestry for management advice. They decided on a Forest Stewardship Management Plan, a Road Day-Lighting Project, Wildlife Planting, and completed over 8 acres of Timber Improvement Thinning. Work was completed with the assistance of consulting forester David Richert, Brian Ledford, Tree Works, and NRCS. The Musselwhites were also presented with a Forest Stewardship Certification by the Department of Forestry for all their efforts.