Eight generations in, Smithfield Farms making a mark today in cattle

CM-MR-2-SMITHFIELD 2cby Karl H. Kazaks

ROSEDALE, VA — At Smithfield Farms, history is inescapable. Henry Smith, one of the long hunters, prior to the Revolutionary War, founded the farm. The house was built in 1850 by his grandson, John Taylor Smith. Together with nearby buildings and sites, the house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. John Taylor’s son, John Henry Anderson Smith, was a Major in the Confederate Army and served in the Virginia General Assembly.

From the beginning, the land has been farmed. Though they no longer grow flax as their ancestors did centuries ago, today John Henry Smith and his son Andy, the 7th and 8th generations of their family to live and farm that land, perpetuate their family’s tradition. But that doesn’t mean the Smiths aren’t taking advantage of 21st century tools and practices. The farm, which included a dairy until the 1970’s, used to raise hogs and at one time included 400 ewes; they left the sheep business about a decade ago and today focus on the high-quality Angus-based cow-calf herd. [Read more…]

Ag literacy for growers

Lori Connelly considers a question being asked. Photos by Steve Wagnerby Steve Wagner

“Sometimes when I’m sitting in an airplane or waiting at the dentist’s office, having a conversation with somebody sitting next to me, I feel like I am lost in translation when I am trying to speak agriculture to the folks who are buying our products.” The speaker was Lori Connelly, formerly Communications Director for Penn-Ag Industries, and who has also worked for Land O’ Lakes. She is currently the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Ag Resource Centers, which is a partnership between the Penn State College of Ag Sciences and the Pennsylvania Legislature.

Connelly acknowledges that the term ‘ag literacy’ is a phrase that is thrown around liberally, and that consumers are in a very interesting place right now. “Their interest in food and where it comes from is very high,” she said, “but their proximity to agricultural production is often pretty low. Most folks are fairly well removed from the farm now. Less than one percent are involved in production agriculture, and yet there is this ever-growing interest in food.” [Read more…]

2015 CNY Small Grain Workshop addresses drying, storage and variety selection (Part 1)

CEW-MR-1-Small Grains pt 1by Elizabeth A. Tomlin

Nearly 100 grain producers and crop advisers braved the weather to attend the 2015 CNY Small Grain Workshop hosted by CCE Oneida County and the CNY Dairy and Field Crops Team of Chenango, Fulton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Otsego, Saratoga and Schoharie Counties.

Speakers at the event included Dr. Kenneth Hellevang of the Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering Dept at the North Dakota State University; Margaret Smith, Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences School of Integrative Plant Science Plant Breeding and Genetics; Weed Scientist, Dr. Russ Hahn, School of Integrative Plant Science, Soil and Crop Sciences at Cornell University; Dr. Gary Bergstrom, Professor of Plant Pathology, Cornell University Department of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology and producer Donn Branton of Le Roy, NY, who told of his farming experience. [Read more…]

Efficient agricultural lighting systems and energy conservation opportunities

by Sanne Kure-Jensen

A recent webinar, “Lighting Systems: Analysis, Performance, and Energy Conservation Opportunities,” described agricultural lighting system functions and how new systems can improve efficiency and performance. Dan Ciolkosz of Penn State described lighting system vocabulary, design and its impact on people, animals and plants. Kip Pheil of USDA NRCS National Energy Technology Development Team described NRCS practice standard 670 – Lighting System Improvement, used to implement lighting system upgrades.

The lighting industry uses its own terminology. Lumens, foot-candles and lux are measures of light level reaching a set area. Bulbs are called lamps. Fixtures are called luminaires and may include a bulb, ballast, reflector and lens. Fixtures will have a photometric report including performance data and where it can be used. [Read more…]

Managing manure on a large scale

CN-MR-3-GERVAIS FARM 248by Sally Colby

No matter how big or small a farm is, managing cows, crops and nutrients is a balancing act. As farms grow, manure management can become especially challenging. The small dairy herd that Robert and Gisele Gervais started in the 1960s is now home to 1,800 milking cows and is operated in partnership with their sons. Son Clement Gervais explains the growth of Gervais Family Farm in Bakersfield, VT. “In 1995, we built a 400-cow freestall barn at the home farm and formed a corporation that includes me, three brothers and my parents,” said Gervais. “By 2003, we were milking 1,000 cows, which is the current number at the home farm. In 2008, the brothers purchased a neighboring dairy farm and we milk 800 cows there.”

The family farms 2,000 acres of grassland for hay and 1,300 acres of corn for silage, all of which requires careful nutrient management for optimum yields. Vermont requires any farm classified as an LFO (large farm operation) to have a manure management plan that is updated annually. Part of the plan includes manure and soil tests, with recommendations for manure applications based on those figures along with the crop grown and the nutrients removed by that crop. [Read more…]