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Farmers being asked to share their stories, photos

By Sally Voth

Farmers and ranchers across the nation are being asked to share their stories, and those involved in Shenandoah Valley agriculture are sure to have some good ones, according to Shenandoah County extension agent Bobby Clark.

The American Farm Bureau Federation is partnering with the Smithsonian National Museum of American History on the Agricultural Innovation and Experience Project, and Clark is enthusiastic about it.

"I think this is a great way for farmers to tell their story," he said Thursday.

With Virginia being one of the oldest states in the union, its agricultural history is richer, Clark pointed out.

"I think [Cooperative] Extension is probably interwoven into many of the innovations over the last 100 years," he said.

For example, the mechanical reaper was invented in Steeles Tavern, and Virginia Tech has a research farm and museum there now, according to Clark.

Plus, the business structure of poultry farming -- larger companies own the chickens and feed and do the marketing while contracting with farmers to raise the birds -- got its start in the Shenandoah Valley, he said.

In the past 25 years, Clark said he's witnessed some major agricultural innovations, too.

While no-till farming technology has been around for several decades, it wasn't practiced very frequently, he said.

"Now, we have farmers who never plow or disc, and may never plow or disc for the rest of their careers," Clark said. "We have the technology to do that today, and that's great for profit and the environment."

Other innovations include soil nitrous testing, the proliferation of soybean farming in the valley and genetically modified crops.

"I bet you it will be amazing to read the stories farmers will be able to tell and [see] the pictures they will be able to show," Clark said.

The Smithsonian will unveil a Web portal on March 19, which is National Ag Day, on which farmers can upload stories about technology and innovations that have changed the way they work. Story topics being sought include precision farming, environmental issues, government practices, biotechnology and hybrid seeds.

Those interested in contributing to the exhibit are encouraged to look through old photo albums, talk to relatives and consider the changes they've witnessed.

For more information on the project, visit americanenterprise.si.edu.

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or svoth@nvdaily.com


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