People: Value, Opportunity & Challenges

Happy 2019! The new year is a great time for reflection so here’s my reflection on our second VALOR seminar. The seminar gave me the opportunity for many firsts: exploring the Tidewater area; seeing pork and peanut processing; “driving” a self-driving tractor; and driving over/under/through the Chesapeake Bay on the Bridge-Tunnel. I enjoyed the time to get to know some of my fellow cohort over meals, in car rides and evening relaxation.

One of the themes that came up throughout several of our visits during the second seminar was the importance of people. People can create value and opportunity, yet also pose challenges.

At Smithfield we saw the amazing number of employees it takes to make the plant operate. At Dublin Farms, David and Mark discussed the great challenge labor posses for their farm. They have a need for many seasonal workers who are willing to work long hours.

Neighbors can be a burden. Smithfield is in the midst of nuisance lawsuits and discussing ways they can be better neighbors. Kyle, a crop grower and Helena representative, shared that neighbors are a challenge on the Eastern Shore. Many people move to the area or have vacation homes in the area and do not like to have agriculture as their neighbor. He discussed the need for community engagement and agriculture education.

Even though these challenges exist, people are why we do what we do. Agriculture is here to feed, cloth and fuel people. As someone who markets directly to consumers, Bill at Quail Cove Organics pointed out what people say they want and what people will pay for are not always the same. To have successful, sustainable agriculture businesses, we have to work to provide consumers with products they will consume.

Ron Daughtrey and Paul Rogers exemplify serving others. Ron is in his 40th year of teaching high school agriculture. He shared the stories of many of his students going on to careers in agriculture. Paul Rogers shared with us the importance of serving others and giving back.

The strengths-based leadership workshop helped me think through how I might be able to best take advantage of opportunities, overcome challenges and serve others. Both of my jobs post college have had a primary focus on relationship building; however, none of my top five strengths fall in the relationship building category. I think that’s because I go about relationship building in a unique way. As an introvert, I typically get to know others slowly over time and work to build trust by always meeting or exceeding expectations. I seek input from as many stakeholders as possible, I am deliberative and analytical with the information I’ve received, I focus on results, and I hope others see the significance of those results.

My overall takeaway from seminar two: it’s all about people!

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