Preparing for peeps

CN-MR-1-PREPARING FOR PEEPS2522by Sally Colby

Open the door to the local hardware or feed store at this time of year and you’re likely to be greeted by the peeping of newly hatched chicks. Whether you’ve raised poultry in the past or are thinking about it for the first time, there are some considerations for successful, small-scale poultry production.

“Raising chickens can be fun,” said Chicken Whisperer® Andy Schneider, USDA/APHIS national spokesperson for biosecurity for birds. “But it’s a major commitment not to be entered into without careful research and a clear understanding of the downside. Like other animals, chickens can create an odor if not properly taken care of. Chickens and their coops must be kept clean, and chickens must be kept safe from predators. Daily attention includes providing fresh food and water and regular egg collection. Coops must be cleaned regularly, including basic cleaning several times a month and a good overall cleaning with disinfectant once or twice a year. Nesting and bedding materials must be provided and changed. And chickens can be noisy.” [Read more…]

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…]

VA State Feed Association holds annual meeting in anticipation of new growing season

Ed Ebert, Bunge North America, presented a forecast for grain markets in 2015.by Karl H. Kazaks

ROANOKE, VA — During an unusually cold spell in late February, with snow on the ground and snow squalls in the air, the Virginia State Feed Association held its 69th Annual Feed Convention and Cow College. Members of the feed industry, dairy producers, animal nutritionists, and other interested parties attended the three-day event.

For grain producers, the forecast Bunge’s Ed Ebert gave for the coming year was as bleak as the weather outside The Hotel Roanoke.

The prices of corn, soybeans, and wheat, Ebert said, will “remain constrained.” In the U.S., he expects an increase rather than a reduction in acreage planted, have canvassed hundreds of growers at several states around the country at meetings this past winter. Couple that with an increase in projected yields and you get a picture of likely record levels of production, likely leading to an increase of grain stocks, which already are at high levels. [Read more…]

Keynote address

CM-MR-2-PA-KEYNOTE-096by Bill and Mary Weaver

“I would like to speak today about a question that keeps me awake at night,” stated Russell Redding, Keynote Speaker at the 2015 Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention in Hershey, PA, who was recently nominated to become the next PA Secretary of Agriculture. “Our biggest challenges in agriculture today aren’t consumer preferences or a proper shelf life. What keeps me awake at night is how to bring enough human capital into agriculture,” Redding said. [Read more…]