Well hello blogosphere world! My name is E.B. Watson and beyond the honor of being named a Class III fellow to the VALOR program, I am a fifth generation farmer from Bedford, VA and am the manager for our local soil and water conservation district, Peaks of Otter. I’ve spent the majority of my life either working on my family’s dairy farm or trying to assist other farmers with conservation projects in our community. I love working with our cattle and for fun turning their milk into a diverse group of cheeses and other yummy dairy goodies. It appears this hobby was well accepted by the other VALOR fellows when we first met, and I now have a VALOR cheese to make and age during our groups journey over the next two years. This cheese is quite the symbolism for the VALOR program. What the cheese will be in the end is not what it is today, much like all 13 of us that make up Class III.
Lots of arguing
Having the opportunity to work at my local soil and water conservation district opened up an agricultural world far beyond my family’s dairy farm for me. I’ve gotten to witness and learn from some amazing diverse farmers from all around Virginia. From old-school to conventional to progressive to holistic to organic to trail blazers. The reoccurring theme with all these farmers is they are trying to make a living, care for their families, and the land that can sustain them. If we all have the same goals, why is the agricultural world fighting each other over whose product is better? The mud slinging on all sides keeps the most critical topic off the table: How do we keep farmers farming? How do we bring new farmers into the farm world? How do we feed the world? These are the questions that keep me up at night.
Trying to turn fears into solutions
My greatest fear in life has always been if I was the generation that couldn’t keep our family farm going. Seeing farms be sold off and turned into concrete jungles growing up really impacted me. As I’ve grown, I’ve realized my personal fear is a selfish one because my family is not the only farmers on this earth. All farmers face this challenge and maybe my fears could be turned into solutions. This thinking is what led me to applying to the VALOR program. I don’t know what the next two years holds for me or the 12 other fellows I get to work with, but my ultimate goal is to be able to serve the agricultural community in a far reaching capacity. I want to be able to help ALL farmers stay farmers and assist those brave enough to be first generation farmers find success. How will I do this? I don’t know yet, but I feel in my heart the VALOR program will guide me.
No one in Class III knows what the future holds for each of us and our group but what I do know currently is I am fortunate to be surrounded by 12 very diverse and bright individuals. I look forward to all 13 of us challenging how we all think to make us better people and better advocates to the Ag industry.
What I do know currently about Class III:
- It appears we are competitive, passionate, and want to be the best class yet. That’s a tall task, but I think we can achieve this goal.
- We have a class cheese, wine, and mascot, we are a cool team!
Until the next class session I’ll be caring for VALOR, the happy heifer, making a VALOR cheese, and soaking up in real time the picture I see each night when I go to sleep: