The theme of the January 2019 VALOR seminar in Richmond was “Legislative Advocacy and Policy Development”. We started our seminar at the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation headquarters. Kathy Dixon and Norm Hyde provided training and practice on video interview strategies. After receiving tips for success, each member of our class was interviewed on a topic of personal choice by Norm or another member of the class. I chose to be interviewed on responsible antibiotic use in the dairy industry. Allyson Jones-Brimmer interviewed me and asked great questions, even though she asked that tough one that Morgan Slaven said caused eye twitching. Kathy and Norm’s tips were very helpful. Wayne Pryor, president of VFBF, stopped by before lunchtime to welcome our group to the headquarters. We concluded our day at Farm Bureau with a presentation entitled, “Truth in Lobbying” by Andrew Smith, VFBF’s Senior Assistant Director of Governmental Relations. Andrew emphasized that the lobbyist’s job is to be an educator and that the work is about building relationships and trust, telling your story, and lobbying and testifying.
Our professional development piece for this seminar was personality and leadership based on the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Dr. Crystal Tyler-Mackey led this session. Prior to the seminar, we had each completed the MBTI assessment; results were shared with us during the session and we discussed characteristics of the 16 type combinations and how personality affects leadership and teamwork. My type is ISFJ (introvert, sensing, feeling, and judging). I completed the same assessment about 18 years ago. My type was unchanged, but my preferences were even stronger in the new assessment.
We visited with Governor Ralph Northam, First Lady Pam Northam, and Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. Governor Northam told us about his agricultural roots on the Eastern Shore and reflected on the importance of agriculture and forestry in the Commonwealth. First Lady Pam Northam shared her work with the Children’s Cabinet, which addresses priorities in early childhood development and school readiness, nutrition and food security, systems of care and safety for school-aged youth. Secretary Ring along with Deputy Secretary Brad Copenhaver, and Assistant Secretary Heidi Hertz discussed agricultural and forestry issues and priorities including economic development, forest and farmland preservation, and food security.
Attending the Virginia Agribusiness Council Annual Legislative Event and Appreciation Dinner was a great experience. This was my first time attending the dinner and it lived up to all of my expectations. It was an excellent opportunity to visit with farmers, allied industry representatives, and government officials. I saw many friends and colleagues and made new connections as well. The Virginia grown food and beverages served were superb.
A class honor during this seminar was being introduced on the floor of the Virginia Senate by Senator Mark Obenshain. Senator Obenshain’s gracious comments about the VALOR program made me even prouder to be part of the program.
The final activity of the Richmond seminar was a tour of the State Capital. I had heard great things about our scheduled tour guide prior to the tour. Mark Greenough lived up to his billing and gave an exceptional tour. His knowledge of the Capitol’s history and his passion for telling the story were remarkable.
The Richmond seminar provided much insight into state government, lobbying, and agricultural policy. I’m looking forward to being back together with our class in Northern Virginia and DC for the next seminar.