…Ian Heatwole, who rarely smiles for the camera.
Ok….that’s great. Tell me more.
In partnership with my family, I own and manage Fox Run Farms, LLC and FRF Cross Keys, LLC in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. “World Headquarters” is more specifically located in Weyers Cave, VA, an area from which I seldom stray. The farms are diverse affairs, involved in dairy, poultry, beef, crop production and grain drying and processing services for other producers in the community. In partnership with two other family farms, we own and operate two New Holland equipment dealerships as well. Agriculture is all that we do, and the farm provides for both my parents and my family’s entire livelihood, as none of us have jobs off the farm.
My wife (Tori) and I have 2 boys aged 14 and 10 who help on the farm. Of course we never know what path our children will ultimately choose, but my goal is to present production agriculture as the desirable career path that I believe it is.
In my spare time (ha!) I am a member of the Weyers Cave Voluntary Fire Company, and serve as President.
But enough about me, you may well be asking: What is this “VALOR” program?
Of course, one answer can be found on the VALOR webpage, which goes into the specifics of what the program is and who is involved. My own answer is that VALOR is survival training for the future of agriculture.
In the past, those like myself involved in production agriculture have chosen to concentrate on running our businesses, and not worry so much about communicating what it is we do with the public at large. It was assumed that the public possessed some sort of familiarity with farming and agriculture, perhaps stemming from memories of their youth, or perhaps osmosis. That is becoming the case less and less today and that trend will likely continue indefinitely. If agriculture is to thrive in the future then those involved in it are going to have to make more of an effort to communicate our story and do so effectively, and I believe the VALOR program will provide this training.
Additionally, “farming” or “agriculture” seems to be taking on an almost sectarian quality. The grain sector is pitted against the livestock sector; the large farm against the small, commodity production versus “local food”, organic, “all natural” and on and on…. And God help you if you mention…. shhhh….
ethanol. Tunnel vision seems to dominate, with very few “big picture” people out there. Its shortsighted, destructive and foolish. One of VALOR’s goals is to chip away at these walls within agriculture to foster more cooperation between these various sectors. Its a big job, one that is needed, and I hope we will be successful.
This is the first year for this program. Similar programs have existed in other States for some time (each with their own clever acronym), but we are just getting started in Virginia. It is an honor to have been selected for this “Inaugural” Class, and I look forward to participating in it. (Even if I don’t consider myself enough of an exhibitionist to blog….)