In my job I get an opportunity to meet plenty of top-notch people — it is one of the perks of the position.
One of the very best, in terms of knowledge and commitment, Extension leaders I’ve worked with over the past four or five years is New Kent County, Va., Extension Coordinator Paul Davis.
Davis also helps his father with the family farm — a lovely place on the shore of the Pawmunky River, just up river from West Point, Va.
He modestly claims to NOT be the guru who inspired countless successful Virginia farmers to go from no-till to never-tell, but he does admit to being a 100 percent advocate and user of the system.
In August, Davis will retire from Virginia Tech and relinquish his job as head of the New Kenty County Extension office.
In reality, he has been much more than a county Extension agent and coordinator. He works throughout the region with farmers, helping them more efficiently and profitably produce their crops.
Davis maintains an active research program with a number of Virginia Tech agriculture researchers, providing a working laboratory for their ideas, as well as his, on conservation agriculture.
He has preached the virtues of soil improvement from no-till, never-fallow farming as part of his job as Extension Coordinator since no-till gained acceptance by a handful of successful Virginia farmers more than 20 years ago. For the past few years he has practiced what he preaches at his family farm near West Point, Va.
With fertilizer costs, especially nitrogen, at record prices, Davis led the charge to demonstrate that improving soil quality can dramatically decrease nitrogen requirements for grain crops.
“We have been in continuous no-till on our family farm since 1999. We know we are improving soil quality and using less nitrogen, but it’s a slow process. We want to jump start the process and reduce the number of years it takes see input costs go down and yields stay high,” he says.
Davis has been at the forefront of bringing both the philosophy of no-till and conservation farming to the middle peninsula of Virginia, but also to bringing the equipment needed for advancing no-till to never-till.
What he plans to do in retirement is a good reflection on the character of the Virginia farm leader.
“I don’t want to compete with the farmers around me for land, so expanding our farming operation is not an option, he says.
“I don’t want to take a job away from someone who has one or may be hired into some job in agriculture, so I’m not looking for another job,” he adds.
What he plans to do is develop a demonstration farm to assist companies, or universities, in conducting on-farm research. His hope is to further the cause of soil conservation in particular and farm productivity in general through his extended career.
“Virginia Tech has been a great place to work. The people I’ve worked with over the years and most of all the farmers I’ve worked with have been remarkable — they made me want to work hard all those years,” Davis says.
As to the future, spending more time with his father and his family will be high on his ‘to-do’ list. Whether his plan for building a research farm pans out, well that remains to be seen, he contends. Based on his past record of accomplishments, I’d say it’s a good bet and one that seed and chemical companies would be wise to encourage.
Virginia is at the far-end of the geography that is my editorial responsibility. Getting to know Paul Davis has made that drive a lot shorter and the stories about Virginia farmers and no-till and never-till technology a lot easier.