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Retirees reflect on long careers as they turn to full-time farming

Retirees reflect on long careers as they turn to full-time farming

FINCASTLE—Some retirees in Virginia are embracing new challenges as they transition to a “retirement career” in agriculture.

For 40 years, farmers in Southwest Virginia relied on WDBJ Channel 7 chief meteorologist and news anchor Robin Reed for the forecast that impacted their operations.

“I would forecast three days of sunshine during hay season, but on day three, it poured,” he remembered. “I’d go to the store with my head down because that was a money-making proposition for the farmers. I realize it’s come full circle.”

After 50 years in broadcasting, Robin and his artist wife, Teresa, are developing their own agricultural enterprise on 11 acres at Twin Cedars Fincastle Farm in Botetourt County. He holds a seat on the Roanoke County Farm Bureau board and is a full-time communications professor at Virginia Tech.

Watermelons, cantaloupes, pumpkins and gourds perform well at Twin Cedars. Tenant farmers are growing 400 broccoli plants on-site, sharing their knowledge.

“We’re figuring out what farming is all about,” Reed said.

Retirement means the end of deadlines after an intensely schedule-driven career. But challenges still present themselves in farming.

“It started raining late last season,” he recalled. “Watermelons were still sitting on the vine at 75 pounds. I hurt my back picking them up, and they tasted awful!”

Agriculture has its share of beautiful moments too.

Passersby stop at the Botanical Bites & Provisions farm stand in Spotsylvania County to ask Thomas and Anita Roberson what they’re growing.

“Weeds! But the vegetables keep getting in the way,” Thomas jokes.

The Robersons pursued careers in medicine, traveling internationally with the U.S. Army.Anita worked as a medical personnel officer, and Thomas retired from performing arterial perfusions at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. As Anita was commuting to Washington D.C. for federal work, Thomas moonlighted in emergency medicine and private practice.

Their 10-acre farm produces a host of fruits and vegetables, wildflower honey and cut flowers like peonies, roses and zinnias. They display colorful bouquets that grab passing motorists’ attention.

“The zinnias are Thomas-proof,” Anita joked. “You cut them, and they just keep coming back.”

The Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability helped them attain a value-added grant for their farm-sourced cosmetic products. They were named the 2015 Small Farmers of the Year by the Virginia State University Small Farm Outreach Program.

Read the full story in the summer edition of Cultivate magazine.

Media: Contact the Robersons at 540-287-0635 or the Reeds at 540-231-0282.