The host of the state’s Farm Bureau’s Real Virginia television show “County Close-up” segment said his two-day visit to Botetourt County was “eye opening.”
Two weeks ago, Burke Moeller interviewed several Botetourt County farmers about the thrills and defeats of farming. He packed his itinerary including visits to a local cattle farm, winery, dairy and interviews with the extension agent and president of the local Farm Bureau.
Moeller’s first stop was Courtney Henderson’s Cave Hill Dairy Farm. He explained the number of dairy farms in Virginia is rapidly declining, but seeing Cave Hill in operation was “absolutely amazing” and praised the Hendersons for “giving dairy farming a go,” despite pressures on the farmers.
At the start of 2019, there were 571 dairy farms in Virginia and by Dec. 31 the number dipped to 469 farms, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The Virginia State Dairymen’s Association said the cost of milk is one of the reasons why this is happening across the country. As the price of milk goes down for consumers it puts more of a strain on farmers, who have to constantly milk and feed their cows.
Moeller explained the profit margins are low on dairy farms, which is why many Virginia farmers are outsourcing milk production to Wisconsin, Minnesota and other mid-western states.
For about 1.5 years, Moeller has traveled Virginia profile the agriculture sector of counties. Botetourt was his 13th and one of the most impressive, he said. From Jay Etzler’s and Mike Seibel beef cattle farms to Barbara Kolb’s Blue Ridge Vineyard, Botetourt has a “mature, robust” agriculture industry, adding the that the farmers who he interviewed “know what they are doing.”
“I could tell they were not farming for the money,” he said. “They are experienced and committed. It’s in their blood and they are proud to be doing it.”
While the farms impressed him, he said the county’s backroads also left an impression. “It was eye opening, so beautiful there with the mountains … there’s just so many landscapes out there. It’s so gorgeous,” he said a few days after his visit from his home in the Richmond area.
Moeller also praised the county’s leadership, specifically the Board of Supervisors. He believes members are striking the right balance between urban expansion and the county’s agriculture heritage. He said the county’s push to bring broadband Internet to more rural communities is “a welcome surprise.”
Rural farmers need access to broadband access for a number of purposes, including medical, business and research. Compared to some other rural areas of the state, Botetourt County is leaps ahead.
The show airs on PBS. It also will be available on Youtube on Nov. 9 and on Facebook by Nov. 23.