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Dairy Dave Begins a New Adventure

Dave Winston
My name is Dave Winston.  I grew up on a 100-cow grade Holstein dairy farm in Campbell County, Virginia, that was operated my grandfather, father, and uncle.  When I was 5 years old, my grandfather invited me to help him feed baby calves and I have been involved in the dairy industry in one way or another ever since.

I consider myself very blessed to have been raised near my grandparents and attribute much of who I am today to them.  In fact, I can relate some of my strongest traits back to my grandparents: Grandpa Winston – leadership and service; Granny Winston – hospitality; Grandpa McHaney – determination (stubbornness); and Granny McHaney – empathy and compassion.

I was a 4-H member through an in-school program and a community livestock club.  I went to Junior 4-H Camp at Smith Mountain Lake 4-H Educational Center.  Unfortunately, there weren’t many other youth in my area with a dairy interest, so I never had the opportunity to participate in state 4-H dairy events like dairy judging and quiz bowl.  

When I started eighth grade I enrolled in vocational agriculture and became an FFA member.  I was fortunate to have two FFA advisors (J.D. Puckett and Preston Coates) who encouraged me to develop my dairy supervised occupational experience projects, compete in a variety of contests (crops judging, dairy judging, parliamentary procedure, and farm business management), and develop leadership skills.  I was passionate about FFA and eventually served as Southside Area Vice President in 1983-84.  Chapter visits, leadership conferences, and chapter banquets were fun ways to interact with FFA members throughout the state.  I still remember one of my favorite chapter visits in Amherst County; chapter advisor Eric Fitzgerald became someone I admired and respected from that day forward.  I cherished the time spent with my fellow state officers as well as Bev Roller (Convention advisor) and Randy Trivette (State FFA Specialist).

Participation in State FFA Conventions introduced me to Virginia Tech.  My first connection with the Department of Dairy Science was Paul Bisbee, our Select Sires salesman at the time.  When I was beginning to think about applying to college and what to major in, Paul encouraged me to look at Dairy Science at Virginia Tech, claiming it to be a strong program with outstanding faculty who cared about their students.  I believe in giving credit when credit is due – Paul was right!  I enrolled at Virginia Tech as a Dairy Science major in the fall of 1983.  

Dairy Club PlaqueMy experience as an undergraduate was exceptional because of excellent professors and classmates, a challenging curriculum, and participation in the Dairy Club.  I served as president of the Dairy Club during my senior year and frequently tell future students that becoming a member of the Dairy Club was perhaps the best decision of my college career.

I was fairly certain that I would be returning to my family’s farm when I started at Virginia Tech and even when I graduated in June 1987.  However, family circumstances changed shortly after graduation and I found myself struggling to figure out Plan B.  Thankfully, I had a great college advisor/mentor in Dr. Bob James who helped me discover an alternative path.  A career in extension emerged as Plan B.  I started my career as an agriculture and natural resources agent in Amelia County in March 1988.  Shortly thereafter, two area dairy extension positions were created – one in the Shenandoah Valley and the other in Southside Virginia.  I was fortunate to be hired for the Southside position and served in that role from October 1998 until August 1994 when I returned to campus to begin work on a Master’s degree in dairy science and to serve part-time as the dairy youth extension specialist.

Today I serve as an extension dairy scientist in the Department of Dairy Science at Virginia Tech.  My appointment is 60 percent extension and 40 percent teaching. Seventy-five percent of my extension time is spent coordinating the state’s dairy youth program and the remainder is spent in dairy youngstock management and dairy information systems. I have responsibility for teaching two classes – Dairy Science and Industry and Dairy Information Systems, and also coordinate Dairy Science Graduate Seminar. I am lead advisor for the Dairy Club at Virginia Tech and co-advisor for Students for Cultivating Change at Virginia Tech.

I am a founding member of the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association, formerly known as the Professional Dairy Heifer Growers Association.  I served six years on the board of directors for the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge and currently serve as chair of the Southern Regional Dairy Challenge Planning Committee.  I was a member of the National 4-H Dairy Conference Planning Committee from 2002-2018.  Each of these roles provided me the opportunity to work with dairy youth, undergraduate students, educators, dairy producers and/or members of allied industry to develop educational programs.  I also proudly serve as the Dairy Science departmental representative on the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Alumni Organization Board of Directors.  Outside of dairy I volunteer as a docent at Glencoe Mansion, Museum and Gallery in Radford.

I believe that life is enriched and teams work better when participants at the table are diverse.  Efforts to improve diversity and inclusion on campus and in the community are important to me.  Service as a Multicultural Fellow at Virginia Tech and on the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Diversity Council have been meaningful experiences in my career.

I am thrilled to be part of VALOR Class IV and look forward to expanding my knowledge and appreciation of agriculture across the Commonwealth.  I hope to use what is learned in VALOR in my extension programs, in the classroom, and in my community.  I’m excited to see where adventures with my new colleagues take us.

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