Back in November our VALOR group had our first “boots on the ground” seminar in Virginia’s Eastern Shore region. It did not disappoint. From peanuts to cotton and pork processing to organic sweet potatoes, we covered a lot of ground. As a Valley guy, I had a lot to learn and soaked in as much as I could.
It would take a really long blog for me to adequately express my appreciation to everyone who hosted us, spoke to us and fed us during our trip. I will suffice it to say the hospitality was second to none and I look forward to going back and learning more.
Among other things, our trip to the Eastern Shore reaffirmed my belief that agriculture is one of the most noble professions that is pursued by people who have a purpose greater than any bottom line. My top three takeaways from the trip are:
- Different region, same great people.
No generalization is perfect, but as a whole those involved in the Ag industry are a special breed. There is a passion there that is hard to really describe. It was inspiring to meet farmers and industry leaders who were so incredibly devoted to their career and way of life. Specifically, I was moved by Paul Roger’s speech to us. I appreciate the emphasis he places on the relationship he has with his family and his commitment to doing things the right way. Dell Cotton’s presentation to us at the beginning of the seminar was also fantastic. His devotion to Virginia’s peanut industry and farmers was palpable. I believe he has forgotten more about the peanut industry than I could ever learn. Those are just two examples, but you could tell everyone we met with was incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about their industry and way of life. They are all doing their best to make sure we have a safe, affordable food supply and clothes on our backs. I think President Kennedy might have said it best with these two quotes:
“Our farmers deserve praise, not condemnation; and their efficiency should be cause for gratitude, not something for which they are penalized.”
-President John F. Kennedy
“The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.”
-President John F. Kennedy
I believe the folks we met with represent some of the very best Virginia has to offer and am sure glad we got to know them.
- We have our work cut out for us.
While the people were fantastic, I was reminded several times on our trip about the growing disconnect between society and agriculture. We really have our work cut out for us. Ronald Daughtrey’s FFA chapter is a shining light in an area that is becoming more urban and more disconnected from the farm. It is so important that we are able to keep our kids involved in agriculture at a young age so they not only know where their food comes from but can also learn the leadership skills and responsibility that come from an agricultural work ethic.
“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”
-President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Programs like FFA and 4-H in my opinion are vital to the survival of the family farm and the close-knit communities that are needed to raise the next generation of agriculture leaders. I wish there was a way that we could provide more opportunities for students to be exposed to teachers such as Mr. Daughtrey to help teach them about agriculture, work ethic, and responsibility.
- This VALOR thing is pretty awesome.
This probably goes without saying, but I am so excited to be part of this program. The combination of leadership development and agriculture education has been awesome so far and I appreciate all those who are part of it. The fact that VALOR alumnus Dana Fisher drove all the way from the Valley to Suffolk to give us a StrengthsQuest presentation only to turn around and have to drive all the way back is a pretty awesome example of the support we have. I can’t wait to see what the seminars this year will entail.
Until Next Time…
For those who made it this far, know that you are the real MVPs in my book. Cheer for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs this weekend. It’s good for the soul. Here’s to making 2019 the best year yet.