Daniel honored for pastureland conservation

AFP Correspondent

WYTHEVILLE, Va. (Feb. 23, 2016) — The American Forage and Grassland Council’s recently-named 2016 Pastureland Conservationist of the Year, J.B. Daniel, was recognized here Jan. 27 during the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council’s Southwest Virginia meeting.
Daniel, a native of Loudoun County, Va. is the forage and grassland agronomist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Virginia.
He works from that agency’s Farmville office.
The award was presented to Daniel Jan. 12 at the AFGC annual meeting in Baton Rouge La., the group announced in a press release.
The award is given to only one person in NRCS each year, the release indicated. This employee must have exemplified outstanding service to the agency, its clients and to science “through development and implementation of sound technology transfer on grazing land resources.”
AFGC cited five categories in which Daniel excelled to win the award.
They are communication, training, partnerships, the application of conservation, and job complexity.
Daniel who fell in love with farming at an early age may be considered a person who became a farm kid by choice.
His parents did not own a farm but two of his uncles did.
He spent his summers as a youngster helping with the farm one uncle operated across the road from his home or visiting, a week or more at a time, with the one that lived about seven miles away.
That gave him the advantage of being able to play with his cousins as well.
These summers gave him experience with tobacco, vegetables and cattle.
They also let him discover that he really had a strong interest in agriculture and working outdoors. He wanted to be involved in farming in some fashion.
In a telephone interview, Daniel pointed to two women who helped make this happen.
First was his mother who wanted him to attend college.
This desire led him to Virginia Tech and the old agronomy program which is now Crop & Soil Environmental Sciences.
There he encountered Dr. Ozzie Abaye, a professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Crop & Soil Environmental Sciences, whom he credits with having the greatest influence on him academically and his success in his career.
Daniel explained that he joined university’s crop judging team.
Abaye was an advisor and made it mandatory that all team members take her crop analysis class.
He recalled these were small classes that enabled Abaye to get to know her students really well and lead them in the team which competed nationally.
Competitions at Perdue University and on the trading floors at both the Kansas City and Chicago Board of Trade stand out in his memory.
The exchanges were closed on Saturdays. This enabled the crop judging teams to use the space.
He said these trips introduced him and others on the teams to become aware of the larger world outside their own states.
He said he and some of his team mates had never been outside of Virginia.
These experiences also made Daniel aware of the ag industry support jobs outside of production agriculture such as the one he holds today.
“This is what opened my ideas to what other opportunities” would be there when he graduated.
He was able to earn his master’s degree at Tech and work for Virginia Cooperative Extension as an ag agent.
Asked “why agronomy?” he said he loved the soil. Even as children he and his cousins had enjoyed playing in “the red brick clay” in the back yard of his Virginia piedmont home.
The scope of his job and his enthusiasm for it take him back and forth across the state working with colleagues and clients.
He demonstrated his talent for this here as he moved through the forage producers and their advisors, visiting, answering questions and building his network.
His work includes training both NRCS and partner agency employees on sustainable grazing practices to assisting producers improve their farming operation.
AFGC reported that Daniel is committed to education and outreach.
“He serves as an advisor to the VFGC, providing key support to the annual VFGC winter conference series with an annual attendance of more than 500 producers and grazing advisors,” AFGC said in its release. “He also spearheaded the development of the Beginning Grazier School, a multi-day, immersion-style training course on management-intensive grazing.” Daniel is also a regular contributor to the VFGC newsletter, The Virginia Forager, which reaches all members and partners in Virginia.
Many Virginia foragers see Daniel’s influence in their lives every day when they look at the calendar on the wall.
His development of the Virginia Graziers’ Planner, an annual 12-monrh calendar with helpful hints and important dates for the industry was developed by Daniel.
It was called one of his “notable communication achievements” in the nomination document for his award.
He has placed a priority on promoting sustainable practice implementation by expanding demonstration projects such as stockpiling fall forages for winter strip grazing.
Other initiatives Daniel has been promoting include the use of annuals in livestock grazing systems and the silvopasture practice. Silvopasture is the term used to describe the integration of forage grazing and forest production.
He was recognized for his work on a major multimedia outreach project and movie called “Gaining Ground: Successful Graziers’ Tell Their Stories. ”
This 15-minute movie featuring four leading Virginia graziers and multiple compelling demonstrations, including a segment with the rainfall simulator, is widely recognized as a top promotional resource for better grazing management.
The nomination called Daniel “one of the pioneers in the use of the rainfall simulators to demonstrate runoff verses infiltration on pastureland.”
“Daniel has become a leader in demonstrating how following sound grazing practices and techniques, leads to improved soil health, rain water infiltration, and better forages.
One his rainfall simulator demonstrations were profiled in a recent national-level NRCS Science of Soil Health video.