On Tuesday, April 17th, the Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition Project hosted an April Beginning Farmer Social. This was a great opportunity for established farmers, beginning farmers, service providers, and educators to come together for fun, networking, and education. It was the kick off to a season full of Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition member events. Stay posted to Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher News for all upcoming dates.
The evening promised to be full of beginning farmer fun. I was full of anticipation as I arrived at the “Bluegrass Barn” a little early to get set up for the event. I was met by Mr. Scott Sink, of Hethwood Market. Scott and Hethwood Market represent beginning farmers as part of the Virginia Beginning Farmer Coalition. I was thrilled to be working with Scott. He really knows the area. He grew up on a dairy in the Franklin County, and now has several farms in the New River Valley, as well as Hethwood Market in Blacksburg. Scott and one of his partners, Mr. McNeil, had an ideal location for a beginning farmer social event. The barn is a large, rectangle metal building that is a wonderful space to host a number of events….anything from educational sessions to weddings. The venue is conveniently located off I-81, right outside of the of Radford.
After Scott and I made the initial plan, it was time to get the party set up. We were joined by a number of Coalition members ready to set up informational booths. Dr. Kim Niewolny, Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Project Director, arrived at the barn early with her family to lend a hand and support. The team assembled. It was great to have Kirk Ballin from Virginia AgrAbility, Sarah Burkett & Cora Gnegy from Virginia Cooperative Extension, Jason Aker from Farm Credit of the Virginias, and Rik Obiso from Attimo Winery. They were all ready with their materials to get set up. We were also joined by Mark Schonbeck of Virginia Association of Biological Farming, Ron Saacke from Virginia Farm Bureau Young Farmers, and Dr. Steve Hodges of Virginia Tech’s Department of Crop & Soil Environmental Sciences. Virginia Beginning Farmers & Rancher project has found great strength, reach, and success in the ground-up type of initiative building the coalition effort. Many great successful collaborations have been formed through the community-based participatory research approach of the coalition. We could not do this without the help of our team!
Folks start to arrive just a little before 6pm. I enjoyed meeing everyone as the came in. We welcomed folks and the evening stating off with a great meal catered by Hethwood Market. The local pulled pork BBQ was fresh and hot right off of Mr. Scott Sink’s grill. He had a great spread. Good food is always the best ice breaker to get folks moving around the room and talking. Everyone really enjoyed the meal. What a wonderful opportunity to network with other farmers from all around southwest Virginia! Folks traveled in from as far as Abingdon, representing all types of agriculture from livestock to wineries and everything in between. We hosted 40 participants— the perfect number.
Dr. Allen Straw, Virginia Cooperative Extension Specialist (veggies, fruits, and specialty crops) based out of the AREC in Glade Springs, VA was our guest speaker. I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Straw speak at an Appalachian Sustainable Development production meeting in Duffield this past winter. I’m a great fan of Dr. Straw and his work. I approached him in Duffield to ask if he could join us for the event in Radford, and I was ecstatic when his scheduled presented an open date.
‘Doc’ Straw talk to the group about market trends and opportunities for beginning farmers. He works with farmers in all stages of the game. He works with big boys that are selling truckloads of wholesale product to distributors and warehouses, as well as mid-small range farmers selling direct. He is full of information, and has helped a number of farmers find their niche. Thanks so much to Dr. Straw for traveling in for the event!
The first Beginning Farmer Social event was a success. We are developing a schedule and will share future events with you soon.
Keep posted to our webpage and Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher’s Facebook page for updates.
Please let us know of topics you would like to learn more about and possible locations you would like to see future Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher events. Feel free to reply to this post below.