Donald Horsley recognized as 2011 Virginia Farmer of the Year
Virginia Cooperative Extension has selected Donald Horsley of Virginia Beach as Virginia Farmer of the Year, an award that applauds individual contributions to the commonwealth’s agricultural industry.
Virginia Cooperative Extension recognized Horsley — who operates Land of Promise Farms in partnership with his wife and two sons — at the Virginia State Fair in Doswell, on Oct. 7.
“Don and his family have built a successful farming operation with hard work, innovation, and resourcefulness,” said Ed Jones, director of Virginia Cooperative Extension. “He is an outstanding leader and advocate for Virginia’s agriculture industry, and we are proud and excited to recognize Don Horsley as Virginia’s Farmer of the Year.”
Horsley’s 5,300-acre farming operation comprises 5,200 rented acres and 100 acres he owns. While corn, soybeans, and wheat provide the bulk of his farm income, his other enterprises work equally well at bringing in solid profits.
Horsley raises 2,672 head of swine from 160 sows in a farrow-to-finish swine operation. He also grazes a beef herd consisting of 24 head of Angus cattle.
Many of Horsley’s pigs are sold to 4-H and FFA members to exhibit at livestock shows. “With a good reputation for producing competitive show pigs, we now sell to customers in five states,” said Horsley. Pigs that aren’t sold for livestock shows are sold for scientific research purposes while others are sold to individuals for barbecuing or at the local auction market.
In addition, the Horsleys grow 15 acres of sweet corn and offer a U-pick pecan business. “The sweet corn and pecan niche crops capitalize on the ‘Buy Fresh, Buy Local’ mission, and they provide seasonal labor for their full-time grain and livestock employees,” Horsley explained.
“At Land of Promise Farms, our family partnership enjoys sharing in the day-to-day farm work as well as its challenges and rewards,” said Horsley.
For many years, Horsley has provided a strong voice for agriculture to local government. He sits on Virginia Beach’s Planning Commission, Farm Bureau’s local board, and on the board of a locally owned Southern States cooperative. He was a member of the Virginia Beach Agriculture Reserve Program Committee and the Agricultural Advisory Committee. As a Ruritan leader, he helped form a foundation that built a community building. He is a 4-H alumnus and long-time 4-H livestock volunteer. Recently, he was appointed to a “2040” long-range planning committee for Virginia Beach. He also serves on the Advisory Committee for the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center.
Horsley has been active at the state and national levels as well, including involvement with Virginia’s Pork Industry Association, State Fair Board, Agribusiness Council, Grain Producers Association, Soybean Association, Corn Growers Association, Agricultural Council, the National Pork Producers Council and Pork Forum, and the American Soybean and National Corn Growers associations.
Horsley is a 1969 graduate of Virginia Tech, where he received a degree in animal science. Both of his sons, Shane and Ryan, also earned animal science degrees from Virginia Tech. Shane is an analyst for Smithfield Foods and works on the farm when time allows; Ryan manages the family hog operation.
As Virginia Farmer of the Year, Horsley will receive a $2,500 cash award and an expense-paid trip to the Sunbelt Expo in Moultrie, Ga., from Swisher International; a jacket and a $200 gift certificate from Williamson-Dickie Company; and a $500 gift certificate from Southern States. In accepting the award, Horsley joins not only the ranks of Virginia farmers who have excelled in agriculture through the years, but also the short list of farmers in the running for Southeastern Farmer of the Year.
Extension has nominated individuals for Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year since the award’s inception in 1990. Contest judges will announce the overall winner at the Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show in Moultrie, Ga., on Tuesday, Oct. 18.