BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. — More than 200 people gathered at the Ron Ramsey Regional Agriculture Center in Blountville on Thursday for the Tri-State Beef Conference.
Now in its twelfth year, the conference — organized by extension agencies in Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina — drew cattle producers from the three states for a trade show and a number of educational sessions. Experts presented topics ranging from reproductive management to restoring feeding areas back to pasture.
“You learn a lot,” said Starling Fleming, 76, who runs a cow-calf operation in Wise County, Virginia.
On Thursday morning, he sat outside the entrance to the trade show as he sipped on a cup of coffee and greeted other attendees. Several organizations and businesses set up booths to talk about their products and services.
Following a session on corn silage for beef cattle, Gregg Marks, 59, said some of the session topics related to practices he was already familiar with, but he was still learning new things after working on farms most of his life. He said he is currently a farm manager in Sullivan County, Tennessee.
“They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but yeah, you can!” he said with a laugh.
Andrew Griffith, a livestock economist with the University of Tennessee Extension, helped organize Thursday’s conference and said the topics are selected based on what agriculture extension agents are hearing from people like stocker and cow-calf producers.
“Our goal is to answer questions that are being commonly asked in the last four to five months,” he said.
Cattle production is a major industry in Washington County, Virginia, and Sullivan County. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2017 census, cattle sales totaled $37.78 million in Washington County and $16.16 million in Sullivan County that year.
Sitting at a table between sessions, Linda Bryson, a cow-calf producer from Rogersville, Tennessee, said she likes keeping up with new industry trends and the conference is a good resource.
“It’s just a good place to bounce ideas off of each other,” said Bryson, 62.
“And there’s always good food,” she added.
On the menu? A steak lunch.