Harrell excels in agricultural proficiency

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 19, 2004

For years, Matthew Harrell looked across the street from his Lummis Road home and saw rows and rows of crops. At the B&W farm, he could see corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and other harvestings. Gazing at the plants that would one day be picked, loaded up and driven to market, Harrell wondered when his chance to take one more step towards being a farmer would arrive.

It did so in 2000, when he started working part-time at the farm. &uot;I always wanted to do it,&uot; Harrell said. &uot;It’s great using equipment, and knowing that you’re helping feed the crops.&uot; Oftentimes seven days a week, he would head over to hop on the tractors, then moved up to six- and 10-wheel trucks.

&uot;I’d haul the crops to Windsor to sell,&uot; he said. &uot;It was fun, driving tractors and trucks.&uot;

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Meanwhile, he was getting some hands-off farming education in the classrooms of Lakeland. He took plant science in his freshman year, which eventually earned him his Greenhand badge from the Future Farmers of American (FFA) association. Harrell then moved on to animal science, agricultural business and co-op operations, which deals with the business side of the industry.

By his sophomore year, he’d learned enough about the business and the history of the FFA to earn his Chapter award, one step up from Greenhand.

All the while, he was still devoting all his farm time to B&W, until this past summer, when he headed to Amadas Industries to help with their peanut crops. Harrell helped put together diggers to bring up the crops, then moved up to driving the combines that pick the legumes.

Last year, one of Harrell’s teachers at Lakeland asked him to start keeping track of the hours he’d been working to send in to apply for several state FFA awards. This season, he did so again, and things paid off – back in May, he was notified that he’d be receiving the Virginia Cotton Association’s Fiber and/or Oil Crop Production State Proficiency Award for his multitude of hours raising cotton, soybeans, corn and peanuts.

&uot;It felt good, since it was the best in the whole state,&uot; he said. However, when he arrived at the Virginia FFA convention at Virginia Tech in June, just after graduating from Lakeland, he found that he’d also be getting the Virginia Future Farmers of America Foundation’s Star award for Eastern Virginia in Agricultural Placement, an award given to the person in the eastern part of the state that works on a farm not owned by them. Harrell also became the third member of his family to get a state FFA degree, as his grandfather Clint Sr. and father Clint Jr. have also received their respective state degrees.

After years of driving tractors and trucks, Harrell now plans to start riding in them – he’s planning to attend Tidewater Community College to study fire science. &uot;I want to learn about how fire works and how to control it,&uot; said Harrell, a volunteer at the Market Street First Station. &uot;I want to learn about the business aspects of a fire department.&uot;