BY JANE BLOODWORTH ROWE
PLEASANT RIDGE — On a recent day, Scott Morris kept two appointments, worked in his fields, then rushed off to see his 10-year-old daughter, Jenna, win an award at school.
It’s that hard work, dedication to farming and service to the community that earned Morris and his family the Excellence in Agriculture Award, according to David Trimmer, Virginia Beach’s agriculture director.
A committee of previous winners presents the annual award to an individual or family. Scott Morris received the award with his father, Nelson Morris, and his uncle, James Morris, on Thursday, March 16.
“The award is given for a contribution to agriculture and for good stewardship and good citizenship,” Trimmer said. “The committee looks at what you’ve done to support agriculture and what you do in the community.”
Scott Morris is the latest in a long line of family members who have farmed in Princess Anne County that began with Thomas Morris in the late 1600s, Nelson Morris said.
The family, in the early days, probably raised a mixture of livestock, grain and produce. “Back then, you farmed whatever you need to farm to survive,” Nelson Morris said.
In more recent generations, the family has turned primarily to grain, although Scott Morris’ uncle and aunt, James and June Morris, now grow some produce, which they market directly to consumers.
Scott Morris said that, even as a small child, he dreamed of being a farmer. That dream was put on hold when, like his father before him, he took a job at the Ford plant in Norfolk and opted to farm part time while James Morris was the primary family farmer.
When the plant closed in 2007, Scott Morris began farming full-time, and he’s brought the farm into a whole new era, June Morris said.
“Scott reads a lot, and he keeps up with all of the changes in agriculture,” she said. “We’re really proud of him.”
Recent changes on the farm include growing cover crops and practicing low-till farming, and Scott Morris earned the 2015 Clean Water Farm Award. Cover crops, including clover and legumes, put nutrients into the soil, reducing the need for fertilizer.
The practice also increases production and saves fuel costs because the farmer can plant directly into the crop’s residue, reducing the need for tilling, Scott Morris said.
Scott Morris and his wife, Betsy Morris, an English teacher at Princess Anne High School, are also active members of Oak Grove Baptist Church in Creeds.
Their daughter, Jenna Morris, takes dance and piano lessons and is active at Creeds Elementary School. She recently received citywide recognition for a song she wrote, too.
Jenna Morris’s brother, 7-year-old Ben Morris, plays basketball and is a taekwondo enthusiast. Ben Morris also wants to become the next Morris family farmer, Scott Morris said. He loves riding the tractor with his father, and he also grows vegetables that he sometimes supplies to his uncle’s produce stand, Betsy Morris said.
The award was presented on Thursday, March 16, during the Excellence in Agriculture banquet at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, 1000 19th Street.
The event kicked off local celebrations of National Ag Week from March 19-25.
Former Gov. Bob McDonnell spoke during the banquet, and awards were given to the Virginia Beach Master Gardeners and John Doucette, editor and publisher of The Independent News, for support of the agricultural community.
And Farmer David Salmons received the 2016 Clean Water Farm Award, which is awarded by the Virginia Dare Soil and Water Conservation District, which serves the cities of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach.
Further coverage of the banquet will appear in an upcoming edition of The Independent News.
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