A grain farmer and an independent hog producer for 41 years, Donald Horsley of Virginia Beach, Va., has also developed niche enterprises that complement each other and his entire operation.

He especially prides himself in caring for the land of his many landlords as if it were his own.

As a result of his success as a row crop and livestock farmer, he has been selected as the 2011Virginia winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award. Horsley now joins eight other state winners from the Southeast as finalists for the award.

The overall winner will be announced on Tuesday, Oct. 18 at the Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show in Moultrie, Ga.

Horsley farms in partnership with his wife and two sons at Land of Promise Farms. The operation includes a total of 5,300 acres, of which 5,200 acres are rented and 100 acres are owned.

Last year's crops included corn on 1,300 acres yielding 140 bushels per acre, wheat on 1,050 acres yielding 60 bushels per acre and soybeans on 4,000 acres yielding 52.5 bushels per acre.

By using his 175,000 bushels of on-farm grain storage and by storing additional grain at local elevators, Horsley is able to make extensive use of forward pricing contracts.

He also uses crop insurance contracts to replace lost income during disaster years.

While corn, soybeans and wheat provide the bulk of his farm income, his other niche enterprises work equally well in bringing in solid profits.

Horsley raises 2,672 head of swine from 160 sows in a farrow-to-finish operation. He also grazes a beef herd consisting of 24 head of Angus cattle.  He considers several aspects of his hog operation to be niche enterprises.