WHITETHORNE — Doug Bunn said he gets most of the information about what’s affecting his fellow farmers at Hardee’s.
The informal morning meetings are incredibly valuable. But sometimes, the Dublin farmer said, it’s necessary to get expertise from people on the cutting edge of agriculture. That’s why events like Virginia Tech’s Field Day on Tuesday are so important.
It was at a recent field day that the 66-year-old learned about how to use drones in farming. Now, his 10-year-old grandson Wyatt Bunn uses the drones almost every day to check on the family’s cattle herd that roams a 1,000 acres.
“What used to take 45 minutes now takes about four,” Bunn said.
Morgan Paulette, a Pulaski County Cooperative Extension agent, helped organize the event.
“We’re sharing research and knowledge out of Virginia Tech,” Paulette said. “We hope that we’re changing lives and that extension is helping people.”
About 125 farmers gathered with researchers, equipment vendors and extension agents to talk about agriculture and share ideas about the best way to shape it moving forward. The agents came from across the Roanoke and New River valleys and the farmers came from Central, Southside and far Southwest Virginia.
The farmers learned about a wide variety of topics, such as pasture management systems, growing industrial hemp and orchard production for making hard cider. Agents and researchers showed off methods and talked about relevant issues to teach farmers about new developments in the agricultural world.
“It’s all about creating hands-on education,” Paulette said.
And that type of education is the purpose of Virginia Cooperative Extension, which is under Tech’s umbrella, he said.
Tech biological sciences professor Susan Whitehead led a session on cider production. She showed off apple varieties that do well in the state and work well in making cider.
Whitehead said though taking part in field day isn’t typical, doing work with agricultural producers to help shape the industry across the state is rewarding.
“This is not really part of my job description,” she said. “But this is really important to me.”
It’s also valuable to learn about what kinds of equipment are available for farmers and what their needs might be, said Greg Canode, sales manager for Farmland Equipment in Christiansburg.
He said he hoped to make a sale or at least get a lead.
“But if not, it’s all good,” he said sitting between two tractors. “This is a beautiful place to be.”
Bunn, the farmer from Dublin, echoed those sentiments. A lot has changed about agriculture and the new efficiencies and technology are incredibly important to remaining viable, he said.
But, for his family, it’s simply rewarding to continue farming and taking part in the agricultural community, Bunn said.
“There’s no better life for us,” he said, looking at his grandson.