VFGC winter conference able to exceed expectations
The virtual 2021 Virginia Forage and Grassland Council Winter Conference was successful in many ways even without its traditional favorite componen — being together with other farmers.
During the week-long event, over 1,500 log-ins to the evening sessions occurred, J.B. Daniel, spokesman for the council, said. Participants joined the meeting from 22 states.
Daniel, who introduced the conferences on the first night, said he told viewers they would be missing the part of the conferences most looked forward too; seeing old friends, meeting new ones and sharing information about what they are doing in their efforts to grow quality forages.
The VFGC board of directors worked for nine months, Daniel said, to find a way to make the annual conference work.
For several years the conference has started on a late January Monday in Wytheville, Va., and moved across the state with the same speakers in each of four localities.
This year the board developed a way to the speakers talking virtually to those logging in to the conference and participate in a question-and-answer portion at the end each night.
One of the advantages of this format, Daniel pointed out, was that both full-time and part-time farmers could get their day’s work done and then sit down and watch the program and participate.
“We made the right decision,” he said. “We were able to host the conference, be interactive and provide what our viewers wanted.”
Guest speakers for this year’s conference were Tennessee grazier Greg Brann and Dr. Greg Halich, a University of Kentucky ag economist and forage specialist.
Brann shared his thoughts on building resilience in grass-based farms. Halich talked about bale grazing and adaptive management of stocking rates to maximize farm profitability.
Daniel, state forage and grassland agronomist for the Natural Resources and Conservation Service, praised the board members for their efforts.
“The council is fortunate to have such board members using their networks,” he said. “The are passionate about the council, they work together, and they bring different points of view to the discussion. The forage industry is very fortunate to have them.
During the Friday morning business meeting, Jim Tate, conservation specialist for the Hanover-Caroline Soil and Water District, and VFGC president for the past two years, handed the reins to Keith Tuck, a Bedford County cattle farmer.
VFGC is an affiliate member of the American Forage and Grassland Council. Daniel said it has 512 members.
He said the board is already looking to activities for 2021, including several pasture walks, if the COVID-19 restrictions allow.
Members are also hopeful that the 2022 Winter Forages Conferences can once again be in-person, he said and there is even the potential that the two formats can be combined in some way to reach more farmers.