Va. Forage Council Honors Extension Economist

2/23/2013 7:00 AM
By Jane W. Graham Virginia Correspondent

BLACKSBURG, Va. — The Virginia Forage and Grassland Council recently bestowed its most prestigious honor upon an Extension economist who also serves as an adviser to the council.

Gordon E. Groover, an associate professor in agricultural and applied economics at Virginia Tech, received the Harlan White Distinguished Service Award during the recent winter forage conferences.

The award is named in honor of the late Harlan White, a Virginia Tech forage researcher widely credited with founding the VFGC.

“Dr. Groover’s efforts have been at the heart and soul of the success of the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council,” said VFGC President Robert Shoemaker said. “He has organized the winter forage conferences that consistently attract a large number of Virginia’s forage producers. The VFGC is well respected throughout the United States for high-quality educational programs.”

Shoemaker said he has know Groover both personally and professionally since their undergraduate days at Virginia Tech.

“His unassuming demeanor and humble character is exemplary of the motto of Virginia Tech, That I may serve’,” Shoemaker said.

Among his duties with VFGC, Groover is an adviser to the organization.

“The forage group is the most enjoyable” group he has worked with in his career as Extension agriculture economist, Groover said in an interview in his Virginia Tech office. “They are a good bunch of people to work with.”

Groover said he chose to work with VFGC because it gave him a chance to work with all parts of the agriculture industry, including forage, dairy, beef, small ruminants and equines to some extent.

The forage award comes on the heels of an award from the university itself, where Groover has served on the faculty and in Cooperative Extension since 1983 and as an Extension agent prior to that.

The university presented Groover with the 2012 Andy Swiger Land-Grant Award last fall. The award, established to honor Swiger, a former dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is given annually to a member of the college’s faculty.

As Groover reflected on his career, he had a hard time pinning down what he considered the most satisfying part.

“I’ve done a little of everything,” he said.

He said he is most proud of his engagement with fellow faculty and producers.

Groover said he strives to always focus on giving support to Extension agents and bringing educational opportunities to them. He likes actually working with the farmers and producers, as well.

“Helping people understand decisions are never clear cut,” is one of his jobs, he said.

“It is how I determine what decision to make,” he said.

“I enjoy working with the various departments” at Tech, he said. “I’m able to apply the principles of economics with the work others are doing.”

Groover took classes under the late Roy Blazer, recognized as one of the pioneers in animal science and forages at Virginia Tech, and got interested in animals and forages as a result.

He earned three degrees from the university — a bachelor of science in animal science and agronomy; a master’s in agricultural economics; and a doctoral degree in agricultural and applied economics.

In his work as an Extension agent and specialist, he had the opportunity to work with Harlan White in the economics of both the plant and animal side of agriculture, he said.

“I had a lot of respect for him as a specialist, as well as human being,” he said.

Groover said he believes the Computer Classroom on Wheels that he worked on in the 1980s had the biggest impact on Virginia agriculture of any of the projects he has been part of during his 30-some years at Virginia Tech.

The project brought the computer to Virginia farmers.

Groover and others would take laptop computers to any place in Virginia that had an electrical outlet so they could teach farmers how to use the new technology in their businesses. He recalled holding one of the two-day workshops in a firehouse where there was electricity but no central heat.

The workshops covered farm recordkeeping, management and decision-making aids such as budgets, and used the kind of computer applications that are now available in almost any public library or community college, he said.

Groover estimated the project taught 10 percent of the state’s farmers about computers.

Currently, Groover’s work revolves around five areas:

Coordination of the statewide farm business management program.

Integration of farm business management Extension and research projects.

Integration of research and Extension projects in management intensive grazing and economics of forage systems.

Determining the use value of agricultural and horticultural land in Virginia.

Multi-state Extension and research activities.

Assist in raising $2 million in endowment funds for the Center for Farm and Agribusiness Management at Virginia Tech.

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