When I was a Virginia FFA officer (seems like many moons ago!), we were asked to define leadership in one word. After many people, including myself, gave it our best try, the national officers running the workshop soon gave us “the best” answer. LEADERSHIP = INFLUENCE! The influence we have on others in this wonderful industry can have a huge bearing on how our story is received. We must always remember that the influence we have could be positive or negative. I choose the former!
My name is Josh Stephens from Quicksburg. I grew up in a very small area in Shenandoah County called Fort Valley. Random fact about me is that I have a twin sister, and no we do not look alike (thank goodness for her!). My full time occupation is performing my duties as a Territory Sales Manager with Southern States Cooperative, Inc. based in Richmond. This role provides me with much fulfillment as I get to work side by side everyday with the individuals growing our food and fiber. I travel up and down many farm lanes and get to help agricultural producers with everything from feed, seed, fertilizer, agronomic chemical application, and even petroleum products.
I am married to a wonderful young lady named Amber. She is truly my best friend. She is an agriculture educator and FFA advisor at Page County High School. Together we raise commercial cattle, registered Red Angus cattle, and ABGA registered boer goats.
When I first heard about VALOR, I knew it was something I wanted to get involved in. What better way to hone ones skills in leadership within the agriculture industry than to be involved with such an impressive group of your peers from around the state? VALOR is a fellowship that is going to allow us as a group, bring a unified and diverse voice to this ever-changing and exciting industry. With more and more citizens becoming more removed from production agriculture, it is critical that agriculturalist’s do our part to represent the role our industry plays in everyday life. It is also important to reflect the diversity of our industry. From small part time farms, organic operations, and “super sized” operations, we all play a role in the future of agriculture across our state, nation, and the world. VALOR will allow us to explore agriculture in many facets and allow us to better communicate it to others.
Over the years, I have been involved with many agriculture advocate functions and discussions. When asked how we solve issues in our industry, many people’s responses (including mine in the past) are we need to “educate people”. This answer is not wrong; however, I feel there is a better one. We as agriculturalist’s need to do a better job at building relationships with others. As we cultivate and grow these relationships, it will allow us to use influential leadership to share our thoughts and ideas.
As I eluded to in the beginning of this post, I have a very strong background in the FFA. The first stanza of the FFA creed states: “I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds-…”. VALOR is going to allow us to put our words into action. I hope I can have a positive influence on raising peoples faith in agriculture and I look forward to this awesome journey!
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