Blackgrove Farm wins Conservationist of the Year

Natalie Netzel Staff Writer

November 15, 2013

NEWBERRY COUNTY —Black Grove Farm in Newberry was recognized as this year’s Willie B. Piester Conservationist of the Year award at the Newberry Soil and Water Conservation District banquet Tuesday night.

Chairman Ben Setzler said that the farm was chosen because of their deep roots in the county. The farm belongs to Walter and Jean Shealy and their two sons Russell and Dixon Shealy.

The district also recognized Willingham and Sons Building Supply and Septic Tanks Inc. as the agriculture supporter of the year.

Keep Newberry County Beautiful is a program within the district and they also recognized four award winners for their accomplishments.

Whitmire Community School was recognized for their outdoor classroom and nature trails behind the school. Principal Joey Haney accepted the award for natural resources conservation initiative.

The Town of Whitmire was recognized for their beautification initiative. Mayor Billy Hollingsworth accepted the award for the Main Street Beautification project which he credited to the previous mayor’s leadership.

Silverstreet Lutheran Church was recognized for community ownership and for their litter pick-ups. They have had a couple already and plan to have one next year as well.

Dr. Charles Horn from Newberry College accepted the award for recycling at the college with the Green Team.

Reports were also given in regards to the education and public outreach and the Keep Newberry County Beautiful program.

Annette Davis updated everyone on the education and outreach aspect of the district.

The Camp Conservation hopes to continue next year and Davis said they are desperate for help and support.

“It was canceled the last two years because there wasn’t enough Internet,” said Davis, adding the camp is set for June 23-26, 2014 in Lynch’s Wood park.

There are also a couple of rain gauges left and the district can get more through the Department of Natural Resources, Davis said.

“Newberry needs to be reporting the actual rainfall to monitor the rain. All you do is get the gauge results and report it on your computer. It’s needed for historical reasons,” said Davis.

Davis also informed the group that they have just received Danger Lagoon signs for anyone interested in purchasing them.

There is also a project the district is working on that Davis said is probably their most exciting one.

The Newberry Soil and Water Conservation District has soil tunnels which are eight by 20 feet.

“We hope to get a true actual feel of the soil profile with worms, landfill, septic systems… everything that’s underground,” said Davis.

Davis said she is working on grants for the tunnels which are designed to feel like the person is underground. Root vegetables hang from the ceiling while a side view of a land field shows how mountains of trash are buried underground.

It’s operated by solar power and uses an old mobile home trailer frame to be environmental friendly. Items such as water, rocks, soil profiles, animals, assorted snakes, worms and bugs, tree roots and more will be displayed and explained through some pre-recorded programs to meet the state educational standards.

In other district news, Newberry had more than 3,000 acres of cropland with conservation practices applied to improve soil quality which include conservation cover, critical area planting, nutrient management, pest management and grade stabilization.

— More than 5,300 acres of farm land had conservation practices applied to improve water quality which include waste storage facility, critical area planting, stream crossings, access road, nutrient management, pest management, heavy use area, waste transfer and grade stabilization.

— More than 1,700 acres of grazing land had conservation practices applied to improve grazing lands resource base which include critical area planting, fence, forage harvest management, pipeline, prescribed grazing, heavy use area, nutrient management, pest management and watering facility.

— More than 2,815 acres had conservation practices applied to protect forest lands and improve vegetative condition. Practices installed to reach this goal were prescribed burning, firebreaks, tree/shrub establishment, forest trails and landings and forest stand improvement.

— The Saluda Watershed is comprised of Saluda, Newberry, Edgefield, Aiken and Lexington and succeeded in addressing over 8,500 acres to improve soil quality, over 13,000 acres to improve water quality and over 6,000 acres to improve grazing lands as well as over 4,800 acres to protect forest land.

Cindy Schumpert updated the audience on Keep Newberry County Beautiful’s initiative which she said has been in the works for about a year and a half.

“We are looking at flexible projects for everybody in the community,” said Schumpert.

“We have yellow trees,” said Schumpert, referring to the yellow stands which have slots to stick bottles on for recycling instead of throwng away. The idea is meant to be creative and encourage people to have fun with recycling.

“We had them at Oktoberfest,” said Schumpert, adding they will continue to show up at special events around the county.

There are about nine programs in place and Schumpert said they are looking at viable programs. However, the recycling project could take about three to five years, she said.

“We are looking at going into the schools with Crayola recycling (project) and collecting Crayola markers and convert them to clean burning fuel. We also give teachers programs for teaching also,” said Schumpert.

In December, Schumpert said they are going to have a green program where they recycle Christmas trees and in February they are going to have a phone book recycling project. They are also looking at a couple of partners so that people can be rewarded for their recycling.

She also mentioned a flash shoe drive in which old shoes will be recycled.

“More than three million pairs land in the trash,” said Schumpert, about amount of shoes in landfills.

There is also a cigarette butt campaign. Schumpert said she has delivered some tall cigarette butt towers to Whitmire and Little Mountain already for people to put out their cigarettes instead of leaving them on the ground.

She mentioned that Prosperity and Silverstreet have already had litter pick-ups and Little Mountain and Peak are planning to have one next year.