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• As a result of his success as a row crop and livestock farmer, Donald Horsley has been selected as the 2011Virginia winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.
Pigs for 4-H, FFA
"When our oldest son was in college, he recognized a need for more swine producers in Virginia to raise pigs for 4-H and FFA members to exhibit at livestock shows,” he explains. “With a good reputation for producing competitive show pigs, we now sell to customers in five states. I'm proud that many buyers come back year after year and they are also spreading the word."
Pigs that aren’t sold for livestock shows are sold for scientific research purposes, while others are sold to local individuals for barbecuing and some are sold through the local auction market.
He started his small beef herd to grow forages that absorb and utilize the nutrients he applies from his swine lagoon. Also, he says, “I just enjoy the beauty of black cattle grazing on lush green pasture.”
In addition, he sells about 25 tons of feed that is mixed on the farm. "We make hog and cattle feed on the farm and sell it directly to consumers, including our 4-H and FFA customers and local small scale farmers," he adds.
Horsley also serves as a dealer for products from Virginia Farm Bureau Service Corporation.
"This allows Farm Bureau products such as oil, grease, twine, tires, and the like to be delivered to our farm in bulk quantities," he explains. "We are able to buy these products at price discounts which are available to other local Farm Bureau members as well."
Another niche enterprise includes sweet corn on 15 acres. "My father-in-law started the sweet corn enterprise many years ago," he says.
"My wife Diane also manages 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 our full time grain and livestock employees.”
"I was raised on a farm in Suffolk, Va., and I've always wanted to farm," he says.
"When I started farming, I rented 132 acres. My father-in-law helped me rent that land. He welcomed me into his family and gave me farm management responsibilities. We still farm the same 132 acres."
Though Horsley and his family have recently bought land, he still depends on rented land for his livelihood.
Horsley is a 1969 graduate of Virginia Tech where he received a degree in animal science. Both of his sons followed with animal science degrees from the same university.
For many years, Horsley has provided a strong voice for agriculture before local government. He sits on Virginia Beach's Planning Commission, Agricultural Advisory Committee, 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.
As a Ruritan leader, he helped form a foundation that built a community building. He is also a 4-H alumnus and longtime 4-H livestock volunteer. Recently, he was appointed to a "2040" long range planning committee for Virginia Beach.