Virginia Cooperative Extension has recognized Donald Turner of Turner Family Farms in North Dinwiddie, Virginia, as the 2015 Virginia Farmer of the Year. He joins nine other state winners as finalists for the overall award which will be announced on Tuesday, Oct. 20 at the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show in Moultrie, Georgia.

Turner has farmed for 41 years and is currently a diversified row crop farmer. This past year, he farmed 1,166 acres of cropland plus another 165 acres in timber for a total of 1,331 acres.

He also produced about 4,000 bales of wheat straw last year. 

“We bale enough straw to deliver what the market requires,” Turner said in an interview with Sunbelt Ag Expo. 

He sells straw to landscapers and contractors and has produced up to 20,000 straw bales. Turner also perfected the art of cutting wheat stalks at a tall height for baling into straw.

"It is always an honor to recognize hard working and dedicated professionals like Donald Turner as Virginia Farmer of the year," said Bobby Grisso, associate director of agriculture and natural resources for Virginia Cooperative Extension.  "His farm is a great example of excellent stewardship of the land and water, and he is a leader in innovative application of machinery. He and his family are the reason why agriculture is the No. 1 industry in the commonwealth of Virginia.”

Turner uses conservation agriculture techniques on almost all of his crops including low or no tillage which causes minimal soil disturbance and helps protect the environment. Turner also uses a comprehensive nutrient management plan for applying fertilizer.

In his greenhouses he produces his own tobacco transplants and follows good agricultural practices for tobacco production patterned after ones used in the produce industry that emphasize producing good quality, clean tobacco, following farm safety practices, and keeping accurate labor records.

Turner has invested in a centralized tobacco curing system. In the future he will also evaluate whether a boiler system could use hot water to help cure his tobacco, and solar panels to help save on electricity costs. 

His other crops last year included 502 acres of soybeans yielding 37 bushels per acre; 304 acres of edible soybeans yielding 42 bushels per acre; and 579 acres of wheat yielding 74 bushels per acre.

As the Virginia winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo award, Turner will receive: $2,500 and an expense-paid trip to the Sunbelt Expo from Swisher International of Jacksonville, Florida; a $500 gift certificate from Southern States cooperative; the choice of either $1,000 in cottonseed or a $500 donation to a designated charity from PhytoGen; and a Columbia vest from Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply.

Virginia Cooperative Extension has nominated individuals for the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year since the award’s inception in 1990.



Written by Amy Loeffler
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