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David Davis

David Davis caught a fish on a lake.

If you weren’t working at WVU, what’s the most likely alternative?

Between my master’s degree and my Ph.D., I managed two apple orchards for 11 years. I was in production horticulture and I miss that occasionally. It’s a lot different than the university scene. Things move pretty slow around here, but things move quicker out there in the real world. I had 18,000 apple trees at one time in Jefferson County. It was pretty cool. We had a storage facility and a packing line. We packed food and took most of it to the D.C. area. And I just miss it sometimes. So I’d probably be growing something somewhere. 

Moment you knew what you wanted to study:

I was in college not knowing what I wanted to study. I think I was in general studies just putting along. I didn’t really want to go to school. My parents wanted me to go so I was taking more of the core classes. I used to tell people I majored in add/drop because I was always adding and dropping courses. 

A couple friends of mine got summer jobs on the Horticulture Farm, which now we call the Organic Farm. I worked there in the late 70’s. It was a summer job, and I just fell in love with it. We were growing strawberries, vegetables; we made cider. I also worked at several other university farms in the state. So I decided to major in horticulture.

What has been your experience with your own gardens?

I still have a garden. I actually have one in the Evansdale Campus between the water tank and the president’s house. I grow some food. I’ve grown some stuff for the president’s house years ago. I teach fruit and vegetable production in the fall and I use it as a teaching tool. 

I’ve grown mostly peppers this year and some squash. I’ve done cut flowers in the past. I’ve grown tomatoes and watermelon and a few herbs like basil and parsley. I do a wide variety of stuff just so students can see things growing. I’ve got grapes growing over there, too. And I have a plot beside the greenhouse with four apple trees, some strawberries, some raspberries and some grapes. 

I just like being outside. I’ve had a garden where I’ve sold produce to some restaurants. One time I was delivering some food and a table had ordered some salads. So they took my lettuce, washed it, made a salad. I saw my lettuce go out into the restaurant and get out on a table in front of some people and that was pretty cool to see them eating that and smiling.

What's your favorite dish to make with the foods that you grow?

Probably stuffed peppers. Stuff them with cheese or soft meats.

What's your favorite course to teach?

I teach about eight courses a year. It’s probably plant propagation. It’s very hands-on when I have it and I’m hoping it will be this spring. We just grow a lot of things from seed and from cuttings. We do grafting and layering. The students get to take a lot of plants home with them if they want. It’s a very hands on course and they like that.

Moment you knew your current role was right for you:

My dad was an English professor here at the university. I come from a long line of teachers. My mother, my dad, my brother, my sister. We all tend to be teachers in one way or another. 

At first I wanted to go into extension or at least I thought I did because I knew the extension agents over at kearneysville where the fruit farm is. Extension agents got to go out and visit and work with the growers. I talked to some growers about it and they said, “I wouldn’t listen to anybody who came out of school and told me what to do if they hadn’t actually done it themselves.” So I decided I’d work after my master’s and I managed those two orchards for a while. 

Then I went to Virginia Tech. I was 39 years old, married with two kids. I left my job and went back to school. When I was working on my Ph.D., this teaching position became available. So I took it and started teaching students. Never made it to extension. Teaching students is similar to extension just a different age group. And I’m very happy with what I do.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I think if I had to pick somewhere it’d be the eastern Tennessee western North Carolina region. I like to fish and there’s great fishing. The live music scene is incredible. Asheville and Bristol and Knoxville are in that area. And I like the mountains.

Favorite part of social distancing:

I can’t think of one. I would say nothing. I’m not miserable, but I don’t like it. Just the other day, someone waved hi to me and I couldn’t tell who it was because they had a mask on.

Least favorite part of social distancing:

I just miss the students. I come in my office and I just shut the door. Usually I leave it open. The traffic that goes by my office isn’t there anymore. My peers in the hallway, we don’t stop and chat like we used to. And the poor horticulture club has met virtually all fall and didn’t get to meet in person and have a meal together. I felt sorry for them. Hopefully, next spring we can get back to some of that.

Just for Fun

Favorite book: The Da Vinci Code; My Secret Fishing Life

Favorite movie/TV show: The Sting, Psycho; Seinfeld

Favorite Spotify playlist/band/song: Outlaw Country

Favorite local restaurant: Ali Baba, Mountain State Brewing

Favorite local activity: Gardening