Retirement leads Cox from dairy to grain
RINER, Va. — Nearly four years ago, Wayne Cox retired from dairy farming, and since then his path has taken many turns.
One of his latest ventures is growing red winter wheat.
Cox will celebrate his 69th birthday in August.
Wayne and his brother Donald were longtime dairymen on the farm their late parents Bernard and Bessie Cox operated. They had continued the small dairy milking around 120 cows.
The brothers decided it was time to get out of the dairy business as they approached retirement age and milk prices fell, Wayne said.
“He was 66 and I was 65,” Wayne said. “There was a depressed milk market. Milk got down to cost more to produce than it brought. It was time to get out.”
Wayne continues to farm, trying different paths since the cows left. He raises beef cattle and also developed a business, Wayne’s Custom Farm Service, LLC, in the Indian Valley community. He offers farm fencing including woven wire, board, high tensile and chain link; A.I. service; custom machine work; and timber appraisal.
He contracted with the highway department to push snow.
“That was not profitable this year,” he said with a chuckle. There was no snow in the New River Valley this year.
As for crops, he put in 90 acres of corn to sell as grain and silage, he added.
He and a neighbor, Allen Phillips, found themselves wanting something new, and discussed buying a combine together. Wayne ended up buying the combine and renting land from Phillips to raise red winter wheat.
Wayne harvested his first 95 acres of wheat last year and sold it to Mennel Milling in Roanoke. He is looking at harvesting his second crop toward the middle to end of June.
He said he also sold the straw to several local farm supply stores.
Like other farmers, Wayne doesn’t do it all alone. He said his wife of 46 years, Erma Cox, has supported him in all his farming “adventures” and helps with fieldwork and bookkeeping.
“She deserves more thanks than anyone,” Wayne said. He added he got a lot of help with the straw from his sons-in-law, his daughters and his grandchildren.
He expressed gratitude to neighbors Dr. Dan Brann, retired Virginia Tech Extension small grain specialist, and Chuck King, for their help in his wheat venture. He bought his combine from King. Brothers Floyd and Michael Childress of Christiansburg hauled his wheat to the mill in Roanoke and Matthew Wells keeps his machinery running.
Wayne said he no-tills his wheat and follows the recommendations of the soil testing he has done for fertilizing the crop. He said he put half of the nitrogen recommended down in the fall and the spring,
Wayne planted his second crop of red winter wheat in October and said he hopes to have a storage bin to hold the grain by the time it is harvested.
“I got a better crop this year,” he said. “Dan told me, ‘You need to plant it two inches deep.’ I didn’t know that.”
Wayne farms on 254 acres of owned and rented land in both Montgomery and Floyd counties. His home sits on a ridge top where Piney Ridge Road traces the path of Little River to Indian Valley Road.
As he talked, the ceiling lowered and more rain began to fall through the mist that shrouded this part of the Blue Ridge. The muddy river was within its banks as it headed to the nearby New River but bore testimony to the record rains that drenched this portion of Virginia the week of May 17-23 and beyond.
He said he was fortunate that the rain and winds had not damaged the wheat. It stood tall and healthy in spite of the weather.
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