Virginia Cooperative Extension has selected Wallick Harding of Jetersville, Va., as the Virginia Farmer of the Year, an award that applauds individual contributions to the commonwealth’s agricultural industry.

Wallick Harding and his brother Kerry have been partners at the family-owned Hard Acres Farm since 1979 and 1986, respectively, and have managed it since 2000. Virginia Cooperative Extension recognized Wallick and Kerry Harding – who run the 785-acre farm that includes tobacco, soybeans, corn, barley, wheat, and a 55-head beef cattle operation – at the Virginia State Fair in Doswell, Va., on Oct. 1.

“With his long career as a successful and innovative crop and cattle farmer, Wallick Harding truly represents the best of Virginia agriculture,” said Cathy Sutphin, associate director for Virginia Cooperative Extension. “He and his brother Kerry have been pioneers in practicing conservation agriculture and finding new and profitable uses for their land. Virginia Cooperative Extension is proud to have them as ambassadors for Virginia agriculture.”

The Hardings have used no-till planting since the mid-1980s along with contour planting and buffer strips. They farm in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and have voluntarily taken steps to ensure that the water leaving their farm is clean. Because they farm in an urbanizing area not far from Richmond, they also make sure they convey a positive image of farming to neighbors unfamiliar with agriculture.

“Wallick and Kerry work diligently to protect water and land resources,” said Cynthia Gregg, agriculture and natural resources Extension agent in Brunswick County. “They make people feel welcome on their farm and they’re always willing to help their neighbors.”

Over the years, Hard Acres Farm has adapted to changing economic conditions and new technologies. For example, the Hardings recently devoted 48 acres of barley for making ethanol at the new Osage Bio Energy plant in Hopewell, Va. This year, they are planting a herbicide-tolerant soybean variety as a low-cost alternative to Roundup Ready varieties. The operation also includes an on-farm repair service and custom grain harvesting.

Wallick Harding has served as a member of the Jetersville Volunteer Fire Department, the Farm Serve Agency county committee, the Virginia Corn Board, the board for the Virginia Soybean Association, and on several committees for Virginia Farm Bureau. He is a member of Amelia County Farm Bureau and has served on its board and as its secretary, vice president, and president. Harding is also a member of Trinity United Methodist Church and supports the local FFA.

In 1989, Harding was a district winner in Virginia Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer of the Year award program. In 1987, the Piedmont Soil and Water Conservation District recognized him as the Outstanding Young Conservation Farmer. He also took part in the American Soybean Association-DuPont Young Leader Program in 1997.

As Virginia Farmer of the Year, Harding will receive a $2,500 cash award and an expense-paid trip to the Sunbelt Expo in Moultrie, Ga., from Swisher International, a jacket and a $200 gift certificate from the Williamson-Dickie Company, and a $500 gift certificate from Southern States. In accepting the award, Harding joins not only the ranks of Virginia farmers who have excelled in agriculture through the years, but also the short list of farmers in the running for Southeastern Farmer of the Year.

Extension has nominated individuals for Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year since the award’s inception in 1990. Contest judges will announce the overall winner at the Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show in Moultrie, Ga., on Tuesday, Oct. 19.