Who Says You Can’t Go Home

As promised in my introductory blog, I have committed to titling every post with a song. While I have a feeling this may become a challenge, this session’s song was a no-brainer. Since I’m from Southampton County, Session II in the Tidewater Region took place in my ole stomping grounds. I live in Richmond and am able to return home fairly regularly, but this trip enabled me to gain a whole new perspective.

I had the opportunity to engage with people I grew up with, not just as family friends, but as colleagues. I was so proud of the hospitality and expertise the Tidewater region had to offer. And despite having grown up around all of the commodities we saw, I was humbled at how much I still can learn from my hometown.

Did you know that new products are being developed with trace amounts of peanuts to slowly expose children and reduce allergic reactions? Did you know that Smithfield Foods is working to capture and convert methane to renewable energy? Did you know how hard it is to pick cotton seeds out of a boll by hand??


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One of the most impactful stops on our trip was the tour of the Smithfield processing plant. Yes, we saw it all–from kill room to packaged bacon. No, it wasn’t pretty. But that tour gave me a new appreciation for the pork I eat. Showcasing the advantages of a large operation, Smithfield reduces waste and utilizes every part of the pig (everything but the squeal as they say). It was interesting to think past the “eat meat debate” and see firsthand that many, many more items essential to human life come from this process. For example, the anticoagulant heparin is derived from pig intestines.

I also have to mention Quail Cove Farms where Bill Jardine, the owner, gave us the BEST sweet potato pies I’ve ever had. In addition to this delicious dessert, Bill shared his organic growing philosophy with the group. It was wonderful to hear his passion for his work and the success he has had–even providing Route 11 with sweet potatoes for their chips.

Did I eat two of these? Maybe….

From Wakefield to the Eastern Shore, a big THANK YOU to all who hosted and showcased the contributions my hometown is making to agriculture!


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