For 58 years, the Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District has celebrated the achievements of the exceptional people protecting our county’s soil, water, farms, wildlife habitat and environment.
From fourth generation farmers to fourth graders, this year’s annual award winners are doing their part to protect our natural resources, from organizing small groups to pick up litter along our streams to sustainably managing hundreds of acres of farmland.
“These awards recognize those who’ve taken action to preserve and enhance our quality of life,” said Wake County Commissioner Cheryl Stallings, who grew up on a family farm in northeastern North Carolina and learned the importance of environmental stewardship at an early age. “As our community continues to grow, so do the demands and pressures on our natural resources. We need conservation heroes like these to know we support them as they lead the way to a better future for all of us.”
Farm Family of the Year – Jordan Family Farms
This year’s Farm Family award goes to James Jordan, a fourth-generation farmer, whose family has been farming in Wake County for 89 years.
Jordan began farming on his own with just 37 acres of pastureland in production and seven cows. Over the years, Jordan has expanded the family farm to more than 200 acres.
As a strong conservation advocate, he installed stream protection and grazing systems on his farm. The complete stream protection system provides alternative watering sources for livestock, meaning cattle can stay out of streams. Implementation of a grazing system helps to manage the interactions between plants, soils, and grazing animals. Both systems reduce soil erosion and nutrient runoff.
Jordan has worked with the Wake Soil and Water Conservation District on numerous other projects and serves as the Street Maintenance Superintendent for the Town of Fuquay-Varina.
Farmland Preservation Award – Patrick Johnson
Patrick Johnson has earned this year’s Farmland Preservation Award for his decades of hard work, including keeping up his family’s 80-year tradition of farming, as well as serving for a decade as a Soil and Water District Board Supervisor.
The Johnson family farm is a testament to the peaceful and healthy landscape that can result from a strong conservation ethic. Johnson began working with the Triangle Land Conservancy in 2017 to secure funding for a permanent agricultural conservation easement on his farm. In September 2022, Triangle Land Conservancy secured an 86-acre agricultural conservation easement on his farm in Wake County. This agricultural easement advances the goal of supporting local farms and food and preserves a family farm in one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. His dedication to farmland preservation not only protects the family farm but improves the health of the land and water quality, which benefits all residents of Wake County.
B.C. Raynor Friend of the District Award – S&P Global
The B.C. Raynor Friend of the District Award recognizes the important role of the business community in conservation efforts. It’s named for Dr. Bobby Carlyle Raynor, who was raised on a family farm in eastern North Carolina and went on to become a successful dentist in the Triangle. This year’s award goes to S&P Global, a financial information and analytics company. They conducted not one, but two Wake County Big Sweeps this year. They also donated $2,000 to the Friends of Wake Soil and Water to support Big Sweep, which work to protect watersheds, enhance water quality and keep our environment litter-free.
Big Sweep Outstanding Volunteer Award – Richard Arnold
The 2022 Outstanding Volunteer Award goes to Richard Arnold for his exceptional volunteer service, dedication and leadership with Wake County Big Sweep. Richard has been attending the Crabtree Creek Big Sweeps near Crabtree Valley Mall since 2016. This is a unique event that takes place on the water in kayaks and canoes, with volunteers removing trash like tires, shopping carts and mattresses from the creek. When long-time volunteer Art Ross stepped back from leading this popular event, Arnold didn’t hesitate and picked right up where Ross left off, making sure Wake County’s natural areas and waterways are protected.
Big Sweep Outstanding New Volunteer Award – Margaret Vaughn & Jonny Gillette
Margaret Vaughn and Jonny Gillette are the recipients of the Outstanding New Volunteer Award. Their quest to clean-up our waterways began in the fall of 2021, when they contacted Big Sweep to see if they could bring an event like the Crabtree Creek Big Sweep to their neighborhood. They accomplished this, and their new event resulted in the removal of 2,500 pounds of litter. Vaughn and Gillette have gone above and beyond, showing outstanding initiative and leadership in volunteer service for Wake County.
Envirothon Award – Subchronic Exposure, Enloe High School
After studying all summer, Enloe High School’s State Champion Envirothon team, Subchronic Exposure, represented North Carolina at the 2022 National Conservation Foundation Envirothon in Ohio. The five-member team – Shriya Reddy, Cynthia Wang, Pranvi Vashisht, Felicia Yan, and Veronica Cheaz – earned 5th place in competition against 40 of the best high school teams from 36 U.S. and four Canadian provinces. Champion teams are nurtured by champion coaches. Enloe Team Advisors Chad Ogren and Debbie Massengill are inductees in the North Carolina Envirothon Hall of Fame, having coached Envirothon teams for 25 years. They are the only North Carolina high school to advance to the national Envirothon five times. Wake Soil and Water Conservation District sponsors Wake County middle and high school Envirothon teams like Enloe to compete in regional, state and national competitions.
Poster Contest Winners – Atri Mandal, Medha Balaji and Eva Zboyovski
To reach future generations and educate them on conservation practices, the Wake Soil and Water Conservation District conducts an annual poster contest for elementary school students. Over 900 4th and 5th graders participated in this year’s contest with the theme “Water: The Cycle of Life.” A panel of judges chose the Top 10 posters, and from these, the Wake District Board of Supervisors selected the Top 3 winners: Atri Mandal from Poe Elementary, Medha Balaji from Green Hope Elementary, and Eva Zboyovski from A.B. Combs Elementary. Each student artist was presented a $100, $50, and $25 cash award respectively from contest co-sponsor Novozymes North America Inc. Now, Atri’s and Medha’s posters are advancing to the regional and state competitions, with the opportunity to win additional cash prizes and recognition.