Tidewater and Eastern Shore: Internationalization Aplenty

Agriculture in the Tidewater/Eastern Shore region holds a special place for me as a Virginia “transplant” – it’s very similar to my family’s homestead.

The terrain is flat – no undulating hills and mountains like those in Franklin County (my adopted home in VA), and less clay (aka “red dirt”). It’s this geographical uniqueness that makes it perfectly suited for classic staple crops like cotton and peanuts. These may seem unorthodox elsewhere, but they continue to be the agricultural lifeblood for this region.

The overarching theme for this seminar was agricultural trade. One point I was not aware of is the fact that the Eastern Shore is a staging area for bustling international trade.

With that said, Royal Fumigation was a very appropriate trip. I was surprised at how aggressively VA is courting overseas markets. I thought this was the exclusive purview of the Feds and our trade representative. I seem to recall this being a theme during Commissioner Sandy Adams’ talk as well (Seminar I). We discussed the China embargo on goods from VA and SC, which seems like an overt case study in protectionism. Unfortunately, this is a reality in our globalized industry. The Perdue/VPA trip dovetailed nicely with this theme.

Speaking of globalization, Amadas Industries produces equipment for sale to diverse locales including Argentina and South Africa – but is headquartered in Suffolk, VA! We also had an impromptu trip to “Coach” spinoff which was an interesting, if unrelated, diversion.

We also visited Smithfield – a marquee name in the international arena and a must-stop for all future VALOR classes. The tour of the value-added R&D capped off the facility visit perfectly. The sheer diversity of brand names under the Smithfield umbrella was stunning. The trip also provided a chance for some clarification on the Chinese “acquisition”.

The cotton gin visit was a very appropriate look into the cotton industry (one which I was largely oblivious to in VA).

Quail Cove exemplified some of the challenges and successes of the organic industry – Bill Jardine is a soil health aficionado like myself, although he joked that he dislikes using that phrase!

A noteworthy highlight of the trip was the bass farm. These types of emerging (and sustainable) agricultural production methods are the future. Afterwards, dinner with Steve Rideout and Mark Reiter gave us all some insights into the machinations of an AREC and how Tech and Extension tie in.

Precision ag is a growth industry and perfectly suited to the seminar’s theme. I greatly enjoyed Paul Rogers’ wit while riding on the combine. The follow-up dinner was a stellar networking opportunity and a chance to have a candid discussion about immigration reform in general. Nothing is timelier. In addition, Charles Green’s presentation provided very useful insights into the day to day working of VDACS as well as grant opportunities.

One of the most powerful benefits of being a VALOR Fellow is nearly unfettered access to policy influencers – it’s a great vehicle to build capacity with game changers at the state and Federal level. In January, a number of VALOR fellows will attend the Virginia Agribusiness Council banquet. Expected attendees include the Governor, the VA Secretary of Agriculture, members of the general assembly, and our Congressional delegation. What a great prelude to our Richmond and D.C. trip!

Tidewater/Eastern Shore Seminar: A Retrospective

Quail Cove Organics

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Some (green) volunteer potatoes. Contains solanine from sun exposure!

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Just started growing kale back home…

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Bill Jardine (Quail Cove Organics) discusses his operation with the VALOR class

AMADAS Industries and Coach

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AMADAS fabrication machinery

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Custom coach, well out of the price range of an educator…

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Impressive nonetheless though

Rogers Farm and James River Equipment (onsite GIS/Precision Ag Demo)

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Precision ag mapping software, demonstrated by Matt Brantley

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A sunset jaunt on the wheat combine with Paul Rogers

Video: Friendly banter on the combine

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Paul Rogers discusses the use of his AMADAS equipment

Mid-Atlantic Aquatic Technologies

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A feeding frenzy

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Netting will keep them in line…

Commonwealth Cotton Gin

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The raw product

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The cotton gin, the machine that transformed American agriculture

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The finished product

Virginia Port Authority/Purdue Agribusiness

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Virginia: an underappreciated port of entry for agricultural commodities

Royal Fumigation

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Phytosanitation is a demanding mistress in the arena of global trade. A fun keepsake, though I’m not sure I can post it anywhere without inducing panic. Definitely a good conversation starter for chemophobes though. Remember the first law of toxicology, the dose makes the poison.

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