Thirty youth and adults toured agricultural businesses in Southern Virginia over three days to learn more about agriculture. Day one included a stop at Dalton Enterprises in Rural Retreat to see how they produce their aluminum Adam livestock and horse trailers. Every trailer is created by a trained set of builders on site. It was neat to watch the details that go into each trailer from lubricating joints to polishing the aluminum. Our second stop (almost literally across the street from Dalton) to Duchess Dairy proved to be the highest-ranked stop of the tour (maybe it was the free sample of their chocolate, orange, and white milk?). Their products are only available within a 1.5-hour drive of Rural Retreat to ensure freshness, and will soon be available in their local Sheetz stores. They only milk Jersey cows (except for the one Holstein that the farmer graciously took after a neighboring dairy had to sell out due to low milk costs) and their milk is rich and yummy. We also visited the Huffard Dairy Farm to visit some of the Jersey cattle. Our third stop was another very popular one - they also milk Jersey cattle at Richdale Farm in Wytheville, but only do so nine months out of the year. They are very economic driven and focus on numbers. To supplement their income, they run a flock of mostly Katahdin ewes to sell their lambs for meat. They have a pumpkin patch, corn maze, and wagon rides the last weekend in September and every weekend in October. Their latest venture includes several acres of hemp which they have to weed with a hoe! The final stop of day one included the meat science lab at Virginia Tech. They have a retail store on campus where the public can buy pork, lamb, and beef. Students from the university get to learn about meat cutting and marketing.
Day two started at the Angus cattle operation at Daltons on the Sycamore where participants got to see some replacement heifers, and their new herd sire, Baldridge Contemporary. He is one of the top sons of Hoover No Doubt in the Angus breed and his dam is one of the elite donors at Baldridge Brothers in Nebraska. They also shared information on G A R Quantum, an Angus bull that they own that has been leased to Select Sires. We've been told that even the Hereford breeders enjoyed this stop. Amethyst Acres Equine Center in Buchanan was probably the favorite stop of the young people on the tour. Everyone got to see the artificial breeding facility, several Arabian foals, and their Arabian stallion that is a product of the mare and stallion that are the Breyer Arabian models! The final stop for Friday was at James River Equipment where a $37,000 remote-controlled lawnmower was demonstrated. This mower is great for steep hillsides where a driver wouldn't be safe. They have two maintenance sheds on the property and their manager spent a good deal of time informing us of the excellent education program that James River has through Wake Tech Community College. For every six months you work with James River, they reimburse you a portion of your education. After working for two years, your education has not only paid for, but they also give you $2,000 worth of tools. Learn more at http://www.jamesriverequipment.com/about-us/tech-sponsorship.aspx.
On Saturday, the first stop was at Performance Livestock Feeds in Martinsville to see how their livestock feed is produced. The plant location was chosen due to available space, but also because of its proximity to the highway and its accessibility by rail car. Participants learned how trade and natural disasters can affect the feed market and how you have to plan ahead. Our lunch stop included a visit to Stonehaus Farms agritourism venture, Everyone got to visit the birds, goats, dogs, donkey, steer, and see the farm before enjoying a finger food buffet of deviled eggs, cheeseburgers on a stick, fruit kabobs, chicken Caesar salad, Caprese salad, and warm pie and ice cream. The visit finished with a mozzarella cheese-making demonstration. The final tour stop was to Sta-Bull Livestock Equipment, where Will and Becky Roberts and their team make custom-built livestock panels and gates. Their products are zinc-coated and don’t have any holes for wasps to enter and build nests inside. In addition, the bottoms of the gates are designed to prevent freezing and busting during the winter. They stand behind their products with a replacement guarantee.
Tour attendees indicated that the majority plan to utilize what they learned on their farm and implement the practices learned. One hundred percent said they increased their general knowledge and awareness of agriculture.
The trip would not have been possible without the support and sponsorship of Forsyth County Farm Bureau, the Forsyth Soil and Water Conservation Board, NC State Extension, NC State University Animal Science, Carolina Farm Credit, Rowan County Farm Bureau, and Lexington Farm and Garden.
View pictures from the tour at https://go.ncsu.edu/19AgTourPhotos
To learn more about N.C. Cooperative Extension and future agricultural tours contact:
N.C. Cooperative Extension, Davidson County Center
Sara Drake, Extension Agent, Livestock and Forage Crops
N.C. Cooperative Extension, Forsyth County Center
April Bowman, Extension Agent, 4-H Youth Development, Livestock and Forages