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A Passion by Mistake or Grand Design?

I loved my time at the Virginia Tech Southern Piedmont AREC in Blackstone, Virginia and am most grateful for the amazing farm crew. These were some of the crazy steers and heifers I worked with for my research.

If someone told me back in college that I’d be living in a small apartment in the City of Richmond at 25, I probably would have laughed at the absurdity of such an idea- me? In the city? Traffic, city lights, and tall buildings, definitely not… I had other plans of where I thought my life was going. Although work took me to the city, I’m proud to say I brought a few cows with me, making what I assume is the biggest cow herd in Richmond (cow items that is). 

Maybe I still am laughing a little at all of my thoughts and that precise plan I once imagined for myself of what life would look like. However, when I look back, on all the hills and valleys of my youthful 25 years, at the end of the day, I don’t think I would have changed it. Just maybe, God put me exactly where I needed to be at the end of each day. After all the ditches He’s pulled me out of (like the gator I got stuck in Blackstone), the bullets dodged, or the times I’ve tried to ‘clip my wings,’ I was brought back on my feet. The dirt was dusted, and I was reminded of all the amazing people that have made even the worst days good days and that dreams are supposed to scare us a little.

Hi! I’m Sarah Jane Thomsen. Daughter of a forester and a teacher, sister to three inspiring older siblings, Georgia Bulldog, kitchen dancer, and Virginia mountain girl wanting to figure out where my path will lead, and trying to enjoy the uncertainty of it all. If I’m honest though, I sometimes feel ‘out of my league’ in the Ag world. We didn’t have land, we didn’t have FFA, 4-H wasn’t active, and yet this nerdy, dog-loving, semi-athletic girl got involved with a cow poop project at Roanoke College in high school and a part-time job at the local animal hospital. After four incredible years as a proud #AgDawg at the University of Georgia and a few broken hearts from some football games, I found out that I was actually a people person. I cultivated my passion for agriculture somewhere between milking cows at 3 AM at the University Dairy and showing livestock at the Georgia National Fair, a summer with Virginia Cooperative Extension, traveling across Georgia and the US to learn about alligator farms, row crops, and lettuce production, and a brief study abroad to France. I knew agriculture was in my future.

When I graduated from UGA, I knew I had a lot to learn and more experiences to have before I was ready to serve the industry in the way I wanted. I came back home to study at Virginia Tech where my farm crew in Blackstone, Virginia taught me more about life, forage, and cows, and Miss Ozzie opened my passport a few more times. I don’t know if I was exactly built for grad school, but I did learn a lot along the way. Not to mention, my time in school gave me the chance to volunteer at the Virginia Agribusiness Council Annual Legislative Banquet. Little did I know that a position with the Council would open up right around the time when I was finishing school and applying for jobs. The pieces came together perfectly. So here I am, with about a year and a half under my belt in what I call my “dream first job” as the Director of Member Services & Events with the Virginia Agribusiness Council. Although a good portion of that time has been interrupted and therefore pivoted by Covid with some virtual events and limited travel, I am grateful to be in a position where I can cultivate my passion for agriculture, build a few bridges, serve the industry, and essentially get paid for talking about agriculture.

Despite landing (mostly) on my feet out of school, I recognize that I’m not done yet; I never want to be content with ‘what is.’ I want to learn, grow, and nourish the person I am and the person I can be. I want to properly give back to an industry that gave me a home which is why I am ecstatic to part of the VALOR Class V cohort. I’d be lying if I said I knew where this adventure would take me or where I want to be at the end of the journey. However, having now (virtually) met the rest of the cohort, I do not doubt that the next two years are going to be filled with lessons, trials, flourishment, fellowship, and no room to settle for less.

Mom and Dad raised my three siblings and me saying their job was to give us “roots and wings.” Roots of where you came from, and wings to take you where you’ll go… they just may not have expected that I put roots- and pieces of my heart- nearly everywhere I would go. I’m still figuring out where those wings will take me, but I’m ready to fly.

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