As I try to catch my breath between the harvest and the holidays, I thought pausing to review the last month might slow me down enough to achieve a couple of deep inhales and exhales. Breath in, breath out…. maybe. Catching a rainy afternoon helps too.
About a month ago, in the middle of our busy cotton harvest season, I checked out of our farm-house on Cotton Plains Farm, and into the Holiday Inn, all right here in Suffolk, VA. It was an odd few days, being a guest in my own backyard. The VALOR II, Seminar II had come to my territory – Southeast Virginia – Tidewater – Hampton Roads – seems we have lots of names for this Region of Virginia. We had an incredibly packed schedule, learning about Emotional IQ and Networking, discussing and planning our future National and International trips, plus touring around to visit a diverse group of Agricultural entities in the area. I’d like to tell you about a couple of our stops.
While I never had the FFA experience as a teenager, I know the organization is an important part of our Ag Education system, and a key component for cultivating future agriculture leaders. Mr. Ronald Daughtery, Lakeland High School Ag teacher and FFA sponsor, has been an important part of Suffolk’s Ag education network for many years. I need to explain that the City of Suffolk, formerly Nansemond County, looks and feels much more like a county than what most folks think of when they hear “City”. And while Ron and I both work in agriculture, he works and lives over 20 miles South of where I work and live – both of us residents of Suffolk. It’s a big place folks! So meeting Ron for the first time after hearing his name for years was long overdue. Our VALOR group enjoyed a home cooked meal, great table service from and dinner conversation with FFA chapter members, and an overview of the Lakeland FFA chapter and its activities and achievements. Check out some of the members in this article: http://www.suffolknewsherald.com/2014/02/08/lakeland-ffa-members-go-to-convention/
One of Ron’s activities for us was dissecting a cotton boll – a new experience for most of our group, but a familiar routine for me – something I get students to do while visiting local elementary schools during Ag Literacy week. (Have I mentioned that I checked out from the farm in the middle of the cotton harvest?) We appreciate Ron’s hospitality and his great work in our community, developing another generation of agriculturalists.
Another part of our weekend, (after a stop at Commonwealth Cotton Gin – yes, I’m a little cotton crazy) was an afternoon trip to Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The Shore gets lumped in with Tidewater quite often, but it’s really a unique place with a character all its own. Any trip across the Bay Bridge is a welcomed adventure. We experienced some of the amazing diversity of the Shore’s agriculture (including passing lots of cotton fields), and ended our evening enjoying some great local seafood with the Director of the Eastern Shore Agricultural Research and Extension Center (ESAREC), Steve Rideout, and fellow researcher, Mark Reiter. Steve provided an overview of the ESAREC and brought us up to date on some of their current projects. A side note: there are always cotton variety trials on the Shore. Of course they are best known for their research supporting vegetable and seafood production! But that cotton, it’s just everywhere! Read more about the ESAREC here: http://www.arec.vaes.vt.edu/eastern-shore/
So you might get the impression that I may have been a little preoccupied during our last Seminar. Of course, our farming business and especially the harvest are never far from my mind. But I have to say I was able to focus and appreciate the weekend’s activities because of these two – Joseph H. Barlow, III, and Joseph H. Barlow, Jr.
Great to know my family has my back while I’m away developing my leadership skills! And the happy ending to all of this; all the crops were harvested before Thanksgiving. And that fiber of our lives? It was the highest yielding cotton crop we’ve ever had. Time to relax, catch our breath, and count our blessings.
To everyone at VALOR and all of you that are tagging along on our adventure: Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a prosperous New Year!