Friday Spotlight: Stokes Soil and Water Conservation District
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Written by McKayla Sawyers, Stokes County District Soil/Watershed Conservationist
The Stokes Soil and Water Conservation District administers and supports local, state, and federal programs that improve water quality and reduce non-point source pollution on agricultural lands along with providing technical support for the district. The Stokes District is one of 96 local districts throughout the state that works in cooperation with the North Carolina Soil and Water Conservation Commission and the Division of Soil and Water Conservation, which is housed within the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. As a subdivision of state government, the District is charged with planning, executing, and promoting sound conservation practices. The District is governed by a five-member supervisory board that consists of three members that are elected by citizens of Stokes County to a 4-year staggered term on a non-partisan basis, while the other two members are appointed by the North Carolina Soil and Water Conservation Commission. The purpose of the board is to support conservation practices throughout the Stokes District.
The Stokes Soil and Water Conservation District supports and administers several different types of programs including state and federal cost-share funding, the Voluntary Agriculture District program, educational opportunities and contests in schools, technical services, and Conservation Farm Plans, oversees maintenance of 24 watershed structures, and rental of our no-till sod drill to county residents.
North Carolina Cost Share Programs include the Agricultural Water Resources Assistance Program (AgWRAP), North Carolina Agricultural Cost Share Program (ACSP), and the Community Conservation Assistance Program. Our office also accepts applications for federal cost-share programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). These programs are not grants but do provide financial assistance when installing best management practices for soil and water conservation. There are several best management practices (BMPs) that can be installed within these programs including wells for agricultural use, stream exclusion fencing, cropland conversion to grass or trees, livestock watering systems, heavy use areas, grassed waterways, cover crops, and many more. Eligible program applications are ranked amongst other applications and funded based on the ranking and conservation priority level as they are received. Just this past program year alone, our office allocated $204,724 to Stokes County land owners and businesses.
The Voluntary Agriculture District (VAD) program helps to promote agricultural values and general welfare of the county by increasing the identity and pride in the agricultural community and its way of life. In addition, the program encourages the economic and financial health of agriculture while also increasing protection from non-farm development and other negative impacts on properly managed farms. You may find one of the program signs as you ride though the county which designates the farms that are in the program.
There are several educational programs that are promoted by our office including Environmental Awareness Days, North Carolina Envirothon Competition, poster contest, slideshow contest, essay contest, and a computerized poster contest. These programs are intended to educate individuals on the value of our natural resources. Programs offered to school-age children follow objectives as outlined in the North Carolina Common Core Essential Standards. Contests have cash prizes for winners and the opportunity to advance to regional and possibly state level of competition. Environmental Awareness Days is a program held at Hanging Rock State Park for 5th graders in Stokes County Schools where they rotate to different stations throughout the day at the park and have the opportunity to learn about topics including soils, wildlife, forestry, weather, human health, the water cycle, and plant and animal ecosystems.
Along with the many programs that our District supports and administers, the Soil and Water office has staff that provides technical service for a variety of questions and concerns that county residents in both rural and suburban areas may have, monitors 24 watershed structures that we have in our district, and offers rental of our no-till sod drill to county residents that would like to establish or renovate hay land, pastureland, or wildlife plots.
The Stokes Soil and Water Conservation District office is located in the Old Courthouse Building at 100 Courthouse Circle, Danbury, NC 27016. You can reach our office by calling either (336)-593-2490 or (336)-593-2846 ext. 3. You can find more information on programs and eligibility at the department website.