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To Southeastern VA and Beyond!

To be honest, I didn’t know a lot about agriculture in southeastern Virginia and on the Eastern Shore until our most recent VALOR trip. Let me tell you, it is a different world.

Inside Belmont Peanuts.
A mountain of peanuts in a Birdsong storage facility.

Our first stop was the VA Peanut Growers Association where we learned all about how peanuts are grown and the history of peanuts in Virginia from Mr. Dell Cotton. Interestingly, there are only two varieties of peanuts grown here by about 200 farmers on 28,000 acres in eight different counties! From there we ate lunch and toured Belmont Peanuts in Courtland, VA. Here they run a market and deli as well as package and ship Virginia peanuts across the country! To end the afternoon, we toured Birdsong Peanuts, a buying station in Suffolk, VA. We leaned the process peanuts go through after they are harvested. Unlike most conventional grains, they are dried on the transport trailers before they are put into storage.

The second day of our adventure started at Smithfield Foods where we had the opportunity to tour their packing plant. From bone-in-hams to fully cooked bacon, we got to see every product that they produced. While at Smithfield, we also visited their Innovation Center where we learned some of the perks of vertical integration in the pork industry. The Innovation Center takes what a company wants in a pork product and turns it into a mass producible product.

Bales of Cotton as fas as you can see.
The Gin at Commonwealth.

That afternoon we toured Commonwealth Cotton Gin and learned all about the cotton industry and how modules of cotton in a field are separated from the cotton seed, cleaned, and turned into marketable bales.

That evening we visited Rogers’ Family Farm to see first hand where cotton and peanuts are grown, how they are harvested, and had a glimpse of technology in agriculture today. We also had the privilege to eat a home cooked meal prepared by Mrs. Rogers. After dinner, we heard a very thought provoking speech on electric vehicles and some of the challenges the automotive industry is facing with them. We also got to hear from VDACS Commissioner, Mr. Joe Guthrie. He commented that one project VDACS is working on is to make the charging of electric vehicles more standardized and fairly priced.

Our final day started out with a visit to Perdue Agribusiness where we learned how they received soybeans, extract oil from the beans, and ship them all over the world. While we were there we got to see a ship being filled with 3,000,000 bushels of beans.

Pictures don’t do justice to just how big Purdue Agribusiness is.

From there we crossed the Chesapeake Bay to the Eastern Shore. Our first stop was at Quail Cove Organics where we visited their farm store and learned about their history and the sweet potatoes they grow.

Our last stop was Seafield Farm, an ocean front produce farm. They grow dozens of different crops with very little crops wasted. It was interesting that they used sudan grass year round as a cover crop to add organic matter to the soil. In my opinion, this beautiful little farm was impressive not only because of their view, but the fact that they support their family of four with just one acre!

Farming with a view!

Of all the things I learned on this trip, I think one of the most important has been it takes all types and sizes to make Virginia agriculture work. From multi-million dollar corporations to a family thriving on just one acre, southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore have a lot to offer!

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