It is always a good feeling when a crop is harvested and put away for the winter. I recently finished picking this year’s corn crop with only a few minor breakdowns two broken chains, one leaking hose and one chain off the gear. Not bad for a Circa 1975 New Idea 323 One Row Corn Picker. Picking a few acres of corn with a one-row picker will give you time to reflect on many things. While making my rounds I thought of some things I have learned in my first year or so as a VALOR Fellow. I can tell you that picking corn with a one-row picker is Old-Fashioned when compared to the combines used in today’s precision farming. Somehow I think that is a good thing, Old-Fashioned is often good.
Our first year has been filled with learning experiences in many facets of Virginia Agriculture from Smithfield Foods, Rogers Farms, the Commonwealth Cotton Gin and Amadas Industries in the Suffolk area to Whitewave Foods, Mead Westvaco, to the Virgiinia Poultry Growers Co-op in our visit to the Shenandoah Valley. Our travels have taken us to Richmond and Washington DC for governmental relations opportunities. Mixed in with all this were visits to Garner Produce, Montague Farms, and Parker Farms in the Northern Neck of Virginia as well as time spent on the Chesapeake Bay as guests of the Bay Foundation at Port Isobel. Throw in Endless Summer Harvest and Yankey Farms in Northern Virginia and you have an action packed year. But it doesn’t end there, our last jaunt took us to the American Midwest, breadbasket of the world. Indiana, Illinois and Michigan three states rich in agriculture and agricultural history. Some of the things we saw include, a windmill farm, the Glass Barn and the National FFA Center in Indiana. A whirlwind tour of Illinois took us to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago High School in Chicago. Michigan was a gracious host in offering up lessons in blueberries, cranberries, cheese and apples. (Hmmm… food, I like this state) There was a nursery, a produce farm and a visit to Michigan State University thrown in for good measure. There were many more places we have visited and many more experiences that we are always willing to share with anyone who will listen. I can tell you that I am just a little tired reliving these experiences but I wanted to project an idea of how great it has been.
There is a common thread among these and the other visits we have made. New Fashioned, now there is a term for you. New Fashioned in the sense that these folks are embracing new ideas, new technologies and new and innovative ways to solve problems. Their success and ultimately the success of agriculture will be based largely on these tenets as well as creating networks of like-minded people, collaborating with others in the industry to face the ongoing challenges of food and fiber production, harvest and distribution. It is what VALOR is about, working to create the networks, build collaborative decision making opportunities and be advocates for agriculture.
Now let’s get back to the original thought about being Old-Fashioned, of course a corn picker is only Old-Fashioned, by hand would be REALLY Old-Fashioned. Really Old-Fashioned and really hard work taking dedication, perseverance and a strong back and mind to finish the job. I bring this up because there is another common thread among the people we have met along our journey thus far… Old-Fashioned, demonstrating those values of dedication, perseverance and a strong back and mind to get the job done. It is important for us to embrace the new ideas to be successful going into an uncertain future but I think more important for us to embrace the Old-Fashioned ideals to keep us true to our cause an on a course to success.
Being a VALOR Fellow is about learning and embracing the new while strengthening the old. Just ask any of us, I think we will be excited to share.
I would love to have one of the new combines but I suppose I will just stay with my old stand-by. After another crop of corn I am just happy to have all my fingers but that is another story altogether.