We are incredibly excited to share that Bobby Whitescarver, the award-winning writer, conservationist, farmer and founding Alliance Board Member has published a new book. Swoope Almanac: Stories of Love, Land, and Water in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley describes the hardships and joys of farming and nurturing the land while raising cattle, restoring streams, and creating wildlife habitat.
We were able to ask Bobby some questions about his new work:
It is impressive how you were able to capture and relate the ups and downs of cattle farming and the beauty that ties it all together in the collection of stories that form the first half of the book. What does it feel like to share what are some pretty intense or emotional moments between you and your family and your herds?
There are many people that come to the farm who have never been in a working barn, fed hay to a cow, or planted a tree. This book is way to connect people with the farming way of life. There are indeed intense, emotional happenings on the farm and my hope is that this book somehow makes the connection between what people eat and where it came from.
There is so much in this book – stories about farming, technical information from your work as a USDA NRCS agent and a sort-of guide to farming in ways that are best for water quality, the soil and the animals. What is the top thing you hope those in the farming community take away?
We can grow food and allow nature to perform her wonderful ecosystem services such as putting all that carbon in the atmosphere back into the earth where it came from. And creating healthy streams that can detox pollution.
What about everyone else?
We should not be taxing land uses such as pasture, crop land, and forests if they are performing those ecosystem services that the public enjoys.
You’re a member of the founding board of directors for the Alliance and helped create our vision, mission and current strategic goals for the Shenandoah Alliance, and as a farmer and NRCS agent and now author, you have a unique and valuable perspective for the impact of our work. How do you see the Alliance’s work in the context of your book?
The work of the Alliance pretty much mirrors the passions that I have worked for throughout my career, first, as a soil conservationist and now as an environmental activist. Well, I’ve been an environmental activist ever since college in the 70’s. These passions weave throughout the book.
The Alliance strategically fights for the same things I believe in—unwanted and unneeded fracked-gas pipelines, poor development, loss of farmland, loss of the rural character of this great and beautiful Valley.
How about through the lens of yourself as a farmer?
The Alliance must endear the hearts of the farmers if we want to succeed because they own most of the land we are trying to conserve and improve. Helping farmers stay on the farm is paramount to the success of the Alliance. We do this by supporting legislation for voluntary BMP’s, the Conservation Fund, smart solar and other initiatives that will improve the livelihoods of those that farm the land.
And as a retired NRCS agent?
The Alliance spawns and supports the initiatives that keep our precious soil where it belongs—on the land growing food, feed, fiber, and fertilizer, and out of our streams where it becomes a pollutant.
What is your favorite thing happening on the farm right now, this April 2019?
My favorite thing happening on the farm right now is the surge of the energy of Spring. Cows are having babies, grass is greening up and growing, the migration of birds is in full swing, birds are singing and building nests, and we have a Bald Eagle nest on the farm that must have eggs . . . how exciting is that?
You’re a great speaker and we’d love supporters who haven’t been to one of your presentations (and those who have!) to have an opportunity to hear you – anything coming up?
Yes, Senator Hanger’s Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week event will be taking place on our farm in Swoope. The event will be June 4th at 10am.
Anything else you’d like Alliance supporters to know?
I am very proud to serve on the board of the Alliance. The Alliance has a very dedicated and intelligent staff carrying out our mission. Thank you very much for your support.
More info an how to get your Swoope Almanac:
The paperback edition of Swoope Almanac (pronounced Swope) will be available on Earth Day (April 22) and is the result of a lifetime of experiences and is a great example of partnership in conservation. The book is illustrated by local artists and is published by the Shenandoah firm of Lot’s Wife Publishing (our Alliance Augusta County Coordinator Nancy Sorrells!) with generous grants from the Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment and from George Ohrstrom II. The Downstream Project serves as fiscal sponsor and provides production and marketing support (they designed our website, too!).
A small quantity of signed and numbered hardback editions will also be available while supplies last. You can pre-order your copy at www.SwoopeAlmanac.org, and when you do, a portion of the proceeds will be used by Conservation Services, Inc plant a tree in your honor and give you a membership in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation!