I’m writing this from somewhere in West Africa. The ocean obviously helps me create longer run on sentences.
I needed to be away to write a blog to describe our Richmond session of VALOR. The session in its time and season was great. I told myself I’m not going to write about any racial things on this trip, as it was a productive agricultural learning experience. I really should have written about it immediately afterwards, but I’m a VALOR fellow, and that’s not what the majority of us do. We wait until next VALOR meeting eve, to write because most of us are much busied adults, with home life, professional life, farm life and myriad of other interests to consume a vast majority of our time and mind.
Our initial day at Farm Bureau was informative and needed. We received an opportunity to talk with and receive tips from a media professional, Mr. Norm Hyde. Lucky or not, we all got our 15 minutes of VALOR/Farm Bureau fame by doing a video interview on whatever topic we desired. I’ve done media in the past, in West Africa and the DC/VA area, and I’m sure I stank just as much then as I did on that cold afternoon in January. But practice makes perfect and the opportunity was one more positive and progressive step towards the elusive goal of perfection.
The next day, as I walked through the Capitol grounds of Richmond for the first time, images of a past not as pleasant to my people frolicked in my head. The statues of those founding fathers of Virginia are not to be highly regarded on put on any pedestal in my opinion. Their actions along with the actions of many before and after them in the establishing of the Commonwealth initially and the entire nation in general were and are still crimes against humanity that have never been rightfully addressed, resolved or provided restitution for. Frankly I don’t think it ever will, which will always keep the elephant in the room.
Our initial session on personality and leadership types was engaging and interactive. Again my first time taking the test, and seeing that it was fairly accurate to my personality and leadership style, alleviated a small amount of doubt about the test. Our instructor, Dr. Crystal Tyler-Mackey was great, a constant smile on her face. I appreciate those who truly enjoy their work.
Following our engaging session, the Secretary of Agriculture, Bettina Ring, the first lady of the Commonwealth, Mrs. Northam took time out of their schedules to address us. Secretary Ring is a personable woman who loves agriculture and I found her both approachable and engaging, and have had several conversations with her since our initial meeting. Mrs. Northam was gracious and kind, and gave us a nice commemorative coin to aid in remembering her talk with us.
After lunch (Grandeur’s of hemp danced in my head…) we were graciously seen by the Governor of the Commonwealth, Gov. Ralph Northam. I wish I could have had the moment back, I think I started to ramble on about marijuana and children. He shared with us and later with the attendees at the Agribusiness Council dinner later that evening that he had engaged with some children recently at a local school and when he inquired what they wanted to do when they grew up, none of them expressed any desire in the largest industry in the state, the $91 billion agriculture industry. What I had meant to say is that you have to reach children where they are, and for any urban and suburban and rural children, hemp can be a gateway crop into agriculture. With its deregulation in the latest farm bill, it’s an opportune time to get children thinking about the possibilities and profit factors of hemp. That’s not quite how it came out when I shared the thought with the Governor, I’m sure I sounded like a character off of Half Baked or Cheech and Chong visits Richmond… I needed a do over, but I think my point was better received later with Secretary Ring and Commissioner Dr. Jewel Bronaugh the Commissioner of VADCS later that night at the Agribusiness Council dinner.
Our dinner at the Agribusiness Council was informative, as many of the farmers and industry participants who took time with us on our Southern Va. /Eastern shore session we had in November greeted me at the dinner. We had a few laughs, and shared a lot of handshakes and appreciation for our time with one another.
At the dinner I ate…… 2 plate of salad …. Maybe 3… You can imagine the choices of food available for a vegan at an industry dinner represented by all facets of agriculture. Crab cakes, scallops, every kind of meat and a few vegetables. No expense was sparred, growers and business orders from across the state shared their products with us willingly and freely for sample.
Our trip was culminated with a visit inside the state legislature, again my first time being inside and seeing where all the magic happened in the state. Witnessing the senate go through its course, and seeing Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax leading the floor and several African American senators throughout the chamber was insightful to witness. I’m not much for politics if you aren’t speaking to my specific interests, but being a fly on the wall to the process to hold a position that pays $17000 a year, and the Lt. Governor making $35000 a year was again insightful.
As we took a tour to the House of Delegates side of the chamber, Marquis Lafayette bust caught my eye, he looked awfully African in his features, a far cry from the paintings I had seen of him. On the house side was a reminder of the elephant in the state, a plaque of Bacon Rebellion’s which was one of the most instrumental and initial insurgences that had ripple effects throughout a young commonwealth.