The Bedford County Young Farmers held a legislative farm tour on May 13th. Below are two perspectives from Farm Bureau staff: Mark Campbell, Sr. Field Services Director, and Arielle Brown, Legislative Specialist.
Mark Campbell: Bedford County Farm Bureau and the Young Farmers hosted a “Meet Virginia Agriculture” event on May 13th. The event was originally initiated by an idea from Delegate Scott Garrett for legislators to learn first-hand about farms and the business of farming along with challenges and opportunities.
Meet Virginia Agriculture was held in the Huddleston area. Legislators and their aides that attended were Delegate Scott Garrett, Delegate Kathy Byron and aide, Senator Suetterlein, Senator Bryce Reeves and Aide, and two county board of supervisors’ members. Everyone car pooled to the farms which allowed for good discussion between farms, which included Gardner Heifers; Tuner Dairy; and the farm of Beth Bays and family, young farmer member.
Three common themes shared by the farms were that the farming business had to be profitable to be sustainable, scarce land availability, and width challenges on bridges and roads for agriculture equipment. Width of bridges is a concern that I hear a lot in several counties. More and more farmers are farming acreage away from the home farm, and transporting that equipment is challenging. Many farmers are having to go alternate routes that end up being many more miles than the direct route; and often means that the equipment is on a road with more traffic. The Gardners related one instance where VDOT built a new bridge, but didn’t make it any wider than the old bridge that was replaced. The legislators were able to see a couple of the narrow bridges on the way to other farms.
At the end of the tour, a delicious dinner was cooked and provided by the young farmers. Afterward a video presentation was shown of testimonials of several young farmers about why they farm.
In conclusion, the legislators and members of the board of supervisors commented how they understood how capital intensive and expensive farming was, and thanked the farming community for producing food, maintaining a strong work ethic, and for being good stewards of the land and water. Kudos to Bedford County Farm Bureau and young farmers for conducting a down to earth and personal interaction with legislators and the farming community.
Until next time,
Arielle Brown: My name is Arielle Brown a Legislative Specialist, Government Relations Department. On Saturday, May 13th I participated in the Bedford County Young Farmers Legislative Farm Tour. The farm tour had been put together as a request by Delegate Scott Garrett and was hosted by Bedford County Farm Bureau. During the tour a group of Supervisors and Delegates had attended two dairy cow operations and a new cattle operation in Bedford County, VA.
On the first stop at the GardnerHeifers, Don and Sam Gardner discussed their use of Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMP’s) that improved their operation. They discussed the use of cover crops, alternative water systems, nutrient management plans and their impacts on their custom heifer raising operation. During the discussion of these practices, transportation of equipment between farms became a topic of conversation. Mr. Gardner explained that he had to run equipment fourteen additional miles on major highways because of narrow state bridges. He went on to show how great the impact was not only to his operation but also to public safety given there are seventy-five bridges in the County that Fire and Rescue can not cross because of either weight limit or dimension. The state legislators discussed options of how to make changes to better serve the agricultural community as well as ensure public safety.
Our second destination was to Turner’s Dairy where the focus was on farm transitioning between two generations. The dairy operation is now being run by the fourth generation and owned by the third generation. Dairy farms are highly capital intensive businesses creating the need for large amounts of cash to compensate one generation to allow the next generation the ability to continue farming. Given the poor state of milk prices, there are many dairy farmers going out of business at this time much less able to save money for such an expense.
At our final stop, Beth Bays of Buck Scrape Farms has taken over her family farm and started her own cattle business. Beth was able to talk about the importance of conservation practices and rotational grazing that she uses on her farm.
This was a great tour highlighting state and local issues that farmer’s face every day. These legislators walked away with real examples of issues that need to be consistently addressed at the General Assembly.