SWOOPE — A group came together Tuesday to celebrate the transformative work on Jeanne Hoffman’s farm done in collaboration with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to establish a plan to diminish some of the environmental damage caused by farming practices.

About 15 years ago, Hoffman teamed up with Robert Whitescarver, who at the time was working with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. He introduced Hoffman to the benefits of taking scientific approaches to protect the environment while farming.

Through government grants and help from several conservationist groups, Hoffman’s farm now has a conservation buffer made up of plants to divide her cattle from the Middle River, which leads into the Chesapeake Bay.

“Conservation buffers are small areas or strips of land in permanent vegetation, designed to intercept pollutants and manage other environmental concerns,” according to the USDA.

Hoffman started the project those 15 years ago by planting native trees, shrubs and wildflowers on her farm along the banks of the river through the Conservation Reserve Program.

Bruce Wiggins, who has done research on the rivers in the Shenandoah Valley area, has identified a large portion of the E. coli in the water as contaminants from livestock being allowed in the river.

“A wider buffer is going to intercept more of that pollution and creates more of the ecosystem functions,” said Matt Kowalski, of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Research conducted by Friends of the Middle River, a contributor to Hoffman’s project, explained that the Virginia State Recreational Use Standard of E. coli count is at 235 CFU/100 mL. In 2019, the E. coli count before the buffer was at 2,047 and after the buffer, it was at 1,127.

“We need to give carbon credits to land uses that are performing ecosystem services. ... If I am sequestering a hundred tons of carbon a year, if I am producing clean water, if I am allowing pollinators to flourish, why am I being taxed,” Whitescarver said. “We need to give carbon credits to those who have the land performing for us.”

State Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, spoke during the event, discussing Chesapeake Bay awareness week and the attention that needs to be paid to other areas within the state to have a similar conservationist approach.

“We have spent about $1 billion on best management practices,” Hanger said, adding that similar funding has been put toward upgrading wastewater treatment plans.

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