I had the privilege of learning so much during the VALOR Class IV’s first traveling seminar. We visited the Tidewater and Eastern Shore regions of Virginia. This was my first time seeing the Eastern Shore which was very interesting. It is amazing when I consider the extreme differences in many of Virginia’s regions from the National Capital region to Southwest VA to the Eastern Shore. It is also particularly valuable exploring the specific challenges and opportunities for the agricultural industry. Although the seminar was only during three days we were able to see so many different aspects of the industry. We learned about Virginia peanuts, cotton, soybeans, potatoes and other row crops. We also were exposed to organic farming practices, international business practices at Perdue and an extensive tour of Smithfield Foods.
One of the industries that I found most fascinating peanuts when we received a presentation and tour at Birdsong Peanuts. Birdsong is a family business which has operated over five generations for more than 100 years. They clean, shell, size and ship peanuts to manufacturers who turn the peanuts into popular food items such as peanut butter, snack peanuts, candy, etc. The company operates six shelling plants throughout the peanut-growing belt which extends through 11 states from Virginia to New Mexico.
We toured the facility in Suffolk which is the original plant. The operation was impressive and efficient. The building is quite old which provides wonderful history and they have been able to keep the technology new while honoring the past. Peanuts have more protein than any other nut which has guided the Birdsong family in their philanthropic goals as well.
Birdsong Peanuts has been instrumental in developing a program called “Ready to Use Therapeutic Food” to help malnourished people around the glove. The company created a peanut paste which is easy to transport to rural areas and is relatively inexpensive. The company’s commitment to civic duty is apparent and has had a global impact.
I learned so much during this first trip and I can’t wait for what is to come. With such a diverse group of leaders I am being exposed to a variety of views that will inform my future interactions with the industry.