Despite Storms, Va. Young Farmers Hold Farm Tour

7/29/2013 7:00 AM
By Jane W. Graham Virginia Correspondent

Scotland’s beloved poet Bobby Burns was of the opinion that the plans of mice and men often go astray. This is a reality of farm life. But on Saturday, July 13, a group of young farmers showed some determination and held their tour of agricultural sites in Patrick and Floyd counties as planned, despite a week of flooding rains and thunderstorms.

“I was pleased with the turnout for the weekend when the weather was so threatening,” said Mark Dawson, Virginia Farm Bureau’s senior district field services director, in a telephone interview. “I think there were eight counties with young farmers. At least three members of the Virginia Tech Collegiate Young Farmer Chapter were in attendance.”

Dawson said 57 people registered for the tour and 47 people attended.

The Virginia Farm Bureau Young Farmers organization sponsored the tour, which included stops at Mountain Meadow Dairy in Patrick County and Mabry Mill and Chateau Morrisette Winery on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The final stop was at the Floyd County Farm Bureau Building, where dinner was served and tour participants had a chance to talk and network.

Gordon Metz, a member of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s board of directors, spoke to the group during their time in Floyd.

“It’s amazing how much they network and support each other,” Dawson said of the farmers involved in the young farmer program.

The tour started at Mountain Meadow Dairy, a conventional operation with a milking herd of about 650 cows. Berry Shelor, owner of the dairy, was on hand to explain how the dairy is run and also fielded questions from the group, which included several dairy farmers. A farm herdsman was also on hand fielding questions.

A park ranger at Mabry Mill, an official part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, explained the history of the mill. The attraction displays many farm implements from the early days of farming in Virginia. The ranger outlined the importance agriculture played for early settlers and their descendants, who still call the Blue Ridge Mountains home.

One of the popular displays at the old grist mill is a still-like-the-ones-they-used-to-make corn liquor or moonshine. While the production of moonshine was and remains illegal, it was at one time an important part of the economy and a major user of corn.

The next stop on the tour was Chateau Morrisette Winery, which sits on top of the Blue Ridge.

The young farmers learned that while the winery has a small vineyard, the soils are not good for grape growing. For this reason, the winery owners contract with grape growers in other parts of the state to grow their grapes.

Tour guides took participants through the winery, where giant oak barrels are used to store wine that is later made in stainless steel tanks.

The winery, open seven days a week, has an adjacent restaurant and is home to the Black Dog Music Festivals, as well as other special events.

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