In challenging situations, it’s important to stay positive – and that’s exactly what two VA Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences students are doing by working on the family farm while at home.

Distance learning provided Isabelle Leonard, of Spotswood, and Wade Reiter, of Dinwiddie, an opportunity to learn from home, work on their family farms, and have supplemented their education with hands-on work.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect learning from home, but I’ve enjoyed being outside on the farm,” Leonard said. “After I work on my class material, my dad has been showing me hands-on examples.”

One of those examples is for Leonard’s course called “Physiology of Lactation,” which covers the best practices for cow producers to milk cows. On the farm, Leonard is the backup for the employees and finds herself on Sundays milking the cows.

“I’m thinking about what I’m learning in class, and I am immediately applying it,” Leonard said. “This is hands-on learning at its finest. I’d be doing this hands-on if we were on campus, but I have my dad here helping me. It’s special. I’m thankful for this time at home.”

The moment is even more special because of the farm – Colebelle – named after Leonard and her brother, Cole, who graduated from Virginia Tech in 2019 with a degree in mechanical engineering.

“For me to come back to the farm and continue the tradition means so much to me,” Leonard said. “I look forward to having a family on that farm one day so that I can continue what my parents started and pass it on.”

Wade Reiter supplements his education by working on the family farm.

Leonard isn’t the only student in the college with this opportunity.

Across the commonwealth, Reiter has found himself in a similar position of being able to apply his education immediately after class.

“Agriculture has been in my blood my entire life since I grew up on the family farm,” Wade Reiter said, whose family has been farming since the 1890s.

Scott Reiter, Wade Reiter’s father and Virginia Cooperative Extension unit coordinator and agent, attended Virginia Tech, as did Mark Reiter, his uncle and associate professor at Virginia Tech.

While both his father and uncle majored in crop and soil environmental sciences, Wade Reiter’s true passion is production agriculture.

The opportunity to learn remotely has given Reiter a chance to work alongside his father and grandfather, learning alongside them, and the ability to help the family prepare for next season.

“I can see first-hand how it plays into production agriculture,” Reiter said. “I’m applying what I’m learning daily and seeing everything in real-time with my father here to help me understand it has been a good, valuable experience,” Reiter said. “It’s been a good way for me to still get hands-on learning.”

– Max Esterhuizen