Home / Blogs / 50 Stories: Celebrating Agriculture with Bobby Whitescarver
June 24, 2021
As we celebrate the Alliance’s agricultural work this month as part of our 50 stories for our 50th, we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about one of our favorite farmers and supporters, Robert (Bobby) Whitescarver.
Bobby Whitescarver is an environmentalist, farmer, bird enthusiast, and although he finds it can be perceived negatively, he is a proud “tree hugger”— and that is all just in his free time. Professionally, Whitescarver is a watershed restoration scientist, educator, and writer. In his book, “Swoope Almanac,” he brings together all of these passions to educate readers on what farmers and the public can do to contribute to a healthier Chesapeake Bay watershed, all while telling the love story between himself and his land, work, and wife.
“Swoope Almanac: Stories of love, land, and water in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley,” is a collection of educational essays, personal stories, poems, and thoughts. Whitescarver’s humorous writing about his experiences with his wife, Jeanne, takes the reader on an emotional roller-coaster of farm life. One second you’ll be ready to sign up to help on the farm when Whitescarver describes the beauty of Virginia, and the next you’ll read about a cow’s uterus accidentally falling out.
Readers will fall for Jeanne, who Whitescarver lovingly refers to as “The Princess of Swoope” — a ninth-generation farmer, cow whisperer, and an on-the-ground go-getter. She is a tough farm woman who knows her land and the cows better than anyone else, all while wearing her favorite pearl earrings. The couple owns a commercial cow-calf operation. If you do not know anything about the commercial cow-calf operations, you’ll learn through Whitescarver’s detailed accounts of cow birthing. For example, if you have never heard of “grafting” you will soon find out the disturbing, yet fascinating truth of the occasional calf death and the trickery between cow farmer and their cows….that is all I will say.
The book is divided into two sections: the first is about life on the farm with funny stories and accounts of the daily life that Whitescarver and the Princess of Swoope, while the second is more about Whitescarver’s life work and his passion towards creating healthier waterways. After Whitescarver takes the reader through each of Virginia’s seasons, describing the wildlife, skyline, and food each time of year has to offer — the reader is left wanting to do their part to continue enjoying and experiencing nature and Whitescarver can help.
Part two is divided into chapters: Riparian Buffers, Calls for Action, Hope for Agriculture, Bird Species in Steep Decline in Swoope, and Invasive Species. The goal of each chapter is for Whitescarver to create a resource with all of the important material that he has written about each subject in one central place. In the Riparian Buffers chapter, he describes how buffers provide many ecosystem services, such as filtering agricultural runoff, absorbing nutrients and pollution, shading streams which lowers its temperatures, and providing food for the aquatic ecosystems. Whitescarver even gave the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay a shout-out for our work with farmers to plant riparian buffers on their property in order to achieve our nutrient reduction goals in the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
Riparian buffers are just one example of different ways that organizations or individuals can contribute to creating healthier waterways. Whitescarver also mentions the adverse effects of invasive species on the environment and to human health. Removing invasive species is a great way to reduce these harms and to allow space for native plants. Through the Alliance’s Project Clean Stream program, volunteers can sign up to help remove invasive species in the local area as well as organize a clean up event where community members can get together and pick up trash in their area that would have otherwise ended up in our local streams and waterways.
Whitescarver believes that “benefits of clean water are immeasurable– more recreation, more seafood, healthier livestock, and a stronger economy. As they say, a rising tide lifts all ships,” (p. 170). In his call for action section, Whitescarver ensures readers that organizations and individuals have made great strides in working towards cleaning the water and that it is all thanks to our passion and drive. Whitescarver asks for a call for action from farmers, organizations, and individuals.
Since the publication of “Swoope Almanac,” Bobby and Jeanne have moved to a new farm as of September 2020, “Whiskey Creek Angus.”
Alliance staff member Jenny McGarvey touring recently installed pens and watering corrals, funded in part by the Alliance’s Healthy Streams, Farm Stewardship Program. Site prep is starting next month for the approximately nine-acre forest buffer to be planted this fall.
We have the pleasure of talking to Bobby at an upcoming Breakfast on the Bay event on July 8th from 9am – 10am about the projects he plans to implement on his new farm.
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