Accomack and Northampton Counties
On the afternoon of Day 3 of VALOR Class IV’s second session, as Chairperson for a portion of the day’s journey I had the privilege to introduce some of our hosts. The first guest to meet was Theresa Pittman, Accomack County ANR Agent (that’s Agricultural and Natural Resources for those unfamiliar) with Virginia Cooperative Extension. Theresa is a VT graduate accepted the job as Accomack County’s ANR Agent in 2011. She holds a Master’s degree in food safety and bio security. A native, she comes from a vegetable and grain farming family in lower Northampton County. Theresa jumped right in giving the VALOR cohort a snapshot of Agriculture in the area, mainly being row crops, vegetables and chickens. Based on the 2012 census, Accomack is ranked number one in Virginia for grain production, and number two for vegetables and broiler production. Accomack is the third highest ranking county in Virginia for total value of agricultural products sold. With a population of 9000 people, and 900 youth in the local school system, it shares the same problems as other rural Virginia areas have with labor force needs and lack of opportunity for younger people to return to the community for work. More information about Accomack County agriculture and the Extension office in the area can be found here: https://accomack.ext.vt.edu/
Theresa then introduced to us Kyle Sturgis, Precision Ag Specialist with Helena Agri-Enterprises, LLC. He is in charge of assisting customers with pulling soil and tissue samples, putting in test plots and implementing Helena’s group of services that fall under the umbrella of their program called AGRIntelligence. He shared with us some diagrams and maps made by a tool made by Veris Technologies that scans soil types and analyzes soil texture; this can help a customer make necessary changes to the soil based on the readings. A handy video of the tool by Veris can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ND-gPCux3DY.
Kyle also farms in partnership with his father and brother at Tri-S Farms, growing soybeans, corn, sorghum, wheat and vegetables including a new addition of strawberries as well as oysters and clams. He’s an active member of the local Accomack-Northampton County Farm Bureau Young Farmers; through a partnership with Virginia Cooperative Extension and Farm Bureau, he has helped organize and facilitate a local Ag Fair for local students. Since the local school system no longer offers agriculture classes, the third annual Ag Fair held in October is a great way for youth to see ‘Ag In Action’ – talking with growers and equipment reps, learning what crops are grown locally, sitting on tractors and milking demonstration cows and how students can get involved in ag in their community. As we continue to see in our journey, if you’re in Ag, you wear more than one hat, and sometimes more than one at a time!
Later in the evening after two farm visits, we met with Dr. Steve Rideout at our dinner location on Chincoteague island. Dr. Rideout is the Director for the Eastern Shore AREC (Agricultural Research and Extension Center) and focuses his work on plant disease biology as well as management of vegetables, oilseed and grain crops. He shared with us a newly release publication about the ARECs around the state, all 11 of them, and the work they are doing to improve agriculture for Virginia. For more information about Virginia’s Eastern Shore AREC visit https://www.arec.vaes.vt.edu/arec/eastern-shore.html.
These stops and individuals during Session II showed us fellows valuable information about precision agriculture and how research and extension play a role in the improvement of growing practices and educating producers. We enjoyed our time on the Eastern Shore in Accomack and Northampton counties and I’ll look forward to my own next visit.