It’s often said, “To hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.” I’m sure He has had plenty of good laughs at some of my best and worst laid plans. Life is full of the unexpected, and while I have definitely had my fair share of the unexpected, I’ve always found there was character building moment or lesson to be learned in all of life’s detours.
My name is Joe Wilkerson, and I live in Halifax County, VA. I am married to my best friend and smoking hot wife KB, and we have a determined, independent, full of life 3 year old named Bailey. We are very thankful (though often tested) for the determination of our little girl. She was born 13 weeks premature, weighing 2 lbs 9oz, and leading us down a path we least expected. Although a stressful and taxing experience, I thank God for it. The reward was great, many lessons were learned, and my life was changed for the better. Since the birth of my child, I have learned tolerance, patience, a whole different level of stress, empathy, compassion, and most importantly love. We have also become active fundraisers for the Children’s Miracle Network. We just completed our first benefit to raise money for them with BBQ & Bluejeans. What a blessing it is to be a father.
The road that has led me to where I am today, was full of curves, mountains, ruts, and also a great view. Today, I own and manage Southside Nursery & Landscape Co., LLC, and also manage our cow/calf operation of about 85 cows that my father and I own. My family farm transitioned from tobacco to a 1200 sow farrowing operation in 1992, and was recently renovated to open pen gestation. I returned home to my family farm in 2003 after graduating from Virginia Tech and brief employment stint with RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company. Upon returning home, I began the humbling journey into the tree nursery business. Things went well for a while, until 2008 when my blind ambition came crashing down, along with the rest of the market, when you could not give away a tree. I used this opportunity to transition into the landscape construction business. Today we specialize in landscape construction and maintenance, and we strive to allow our customers enjoy their outdoors.
My passion has always remained in production agriculture. It is just in my blood. I love the connection with God’s magnificent creation. No matter how busy I get or how many times I have seen it, I still find awe in watching a calve or piglet being born, the mothers nurturing care, and how it all just is too perfect to not have a plan. Fresh turned dirt remains one of my favorite smells. I still have dreams about tobacco, sometimes waking up in a panic like I forgot to do something before I realize that was a decade ago. This passion is why I am honored to participate in the second VALOR class.
VALOR stands for Virginia Agriculture Leaders Obtaining Results, and after our first meeting in September I am even more excited about being able to learn and grow through this experience. Over the next two years, we VALOR fellows will have an awesome opportunity for professional and personal development. Beginning by understanding ourselves through personality and emotional testing, we will develop our leadership ability through various seminars and travel that are specifically designed to teach us how to carry ourselves as leaders. I recently read in the book, Leaders Eat Last, “no one wakes up in the morning to go to work with the hope that someone will manage us. We wake up in the morning and go to work with hope that someone will lead us.” In order to be lead, there must be leaders.
As I follow trends in our country and around the world, it is evident that those of us who are in close to agriculture must lead or we will be lead. So many people are generations removed from the farm today, with only stories from their grandparents and youtube to guide their perception of what is “farming.” Policy and markets can change at lightning speed. We must be ready to impact our political leaders as well as adapt to an ever changing market place. We are lucky in one regard, we produce a product everyone NEEDS. However, when I read articles like this recent editorial from the Washington Post, I am scared into action. The article basically calls for a “national food policy.” Typical of central economic planners not trusting the markets, and arrogantly believing they can do it better. Well, Chairman Mao had a food policy, too, and MILLIONS starved to death. The great “utopian” Soviet Union also had a five year plan for food production; same result. The point is, if we allow someone in a lofty office overlooking the Potomac River to set a “national food policy” we are all in trouble. We must actively promote liberty and good stewardship, steer public opinion, and not allow mob rule overrun the backbone of our existence.
I look forward to next two years, and the experience named VALOR. I am excited for the opportunity to develop into a successful, yet humble leader. Please follow us on twitter and at our blog.