I graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Plant Medicine, the equivalent of a “plant M.D.” (http://dpm.ifas.ufl.edu)
I’m currently the Agriculture Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Agronomy at Ferrum College, a small liberal arts college in the picturesque foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains: (http://www.ferrum.edu/academics/schools/natural_sciences_math/agriculture.html)
In the academic offseason, I work the fields at Deer Run Farm – my family’s 30 acre truck farm on Long Island, New York.
About a century ago, my family owned a farm in Brooklyn. Since then, we’ve progressively moved east to avoid the tide of urbanization. Brookhaven, NY seems to be our “last stand”. As one of the few vegetable farms left in the region, we face some unique challenges: overzealous environmentalists, (sometimes) unsympathetic neighbors, and uninformed policymakers. As the 2%ers, it seems like our voice is being drowned out in the crowd.
With that said, leadership programs like Virginia Agricultural Leaders Obtaining Results (VALOR) are especially timely. There’s an urgent need for advocates and ambassadors: go-to content experts that can effectively present our narrative in the media, State Capitols, and “The Hill”. If the other 98% is crafting policy without our input, we only have ourselves to blame!
What struck me most about Class II is the sheer diversity of the participants from an ethnic, regional, commodity, and industry standpoint. Despite these differences, VALOR brings everyone together under the same rigorous 2 year leadership training. During Seminar I in Blacksburg, we examined our Myers-Briggs Personality types, the inevitability of change in the industry, social networking, and were treated to an overview of Virginia agriculture by Ag Commissioner Sandy Adams.
I’m especially interested in international agriculture. One of the hallmarks (and highlights) of VALOR is the international trip in year two. After participants present on multiple options during Seminar II (11/16/14), they democratically choose a location. I’m certain that the trip will be as enriching as some other countries I’ve visited, including:
New Zealand: I received a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship to study agriculture at Lincoln University.
Honduras: As a graduate student at the University of Florida, I visited Escuela Agrícola Panamericana (Zamorano) with a faculty member and a number of undergraduate students.
Costa Rica (2x): My first visit was as a grad student; then as a faculty member as part of a multi-university consortium that visited Earth University.
Philippines: I participated in the Rice: Research to Production Course at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), supported by an NSF grant.
I look forward to building relationships with my fellow VALOR participants to craft a roadmap for the future of ag!