The title summarizes my feelings following our tour of Eastern Virginia. I have been immersed in the dairy industry my entire life, so learning about other agricultural commodities is one of my main goals in participating in VALOR. My mind felt like a sponge soaking up so much information about production practices, processing, marketing, trade, and sustainability for peanuts, cotton, potatoes, soybeans, and pork.
Meeting 2018 Virginia Farmer of the Year Paul Rogers, Jr. and his wife Pam was a treat of the seminar. I enjoyed learning about the Rogers’ history and current farming practices on their crop farm. Mr. Rogers’ influence has extended far beyond the farm’s boundaries, notably by serving as chair of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services board and as a member of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. Mr. Rogers’ use of technology was of great interest to me. It was a lot of fun ‘driving’ Mr. Rogers’ smart tractor (under his close supervision, of course).
“Waste not, want not” was a theme that stood out to me during our visits to processing facilities. Our hosts at Birdsong Peanuts, Smithfield Foods, Commonwealth Gin, and Dublin Farms detailed how peanuts, pork, cotton, and potatoes, respectively, are utilized to their fullest extent. It was informative to hear about sustainability efforts at each facility.
Our visit to Perdue Agribusiness had a profound impact on me. The size and scale of the export facility and its operation seemed overwhelming. The grain export business was not a new concept to me, but the enormity of the operation blew my mind. Movement of grain and soybeans via truck and rail to the export facility, processing, and storage on the front end followed by a several-day process of loading a ship, and then delivery to the export partner, and distribution from that point is an enormous undertaking with so many moving parts. I felt very small when considering how many people were required to make everything happen.
VALOR alumnus Dana Fisher’s session on Strengths Based Leadership was helpful in further understanding self and working with others. It provided several “aha!” moments. My top five signature themes were Individualization, Developer, Harmony, Responsibility, and Belief. I found the information to be spot on and helpful in understanding why I have enjoyed my career in extension and higher education. I appreciated hearing Dana’s reflections on his VALOR experience.
Finally, this second seminar provided time to get to know members of our cohort even better. I really enjoyed our time together and am amazed at what each person brings to the table. I know we won’t all agree on many issues – that’s not the goal of the program anyway – but I hope we will be able to have many robust discussions and walk away with great respect for each other and our points of view when all is said and done. I can’t wait to see everyone at our next seminar in Richmond.