Looking back on the first session of the Class V cohort, you see the promise, you see the hope, you see the passion for agriculture in this new group. The state of agriculture in Virginia is both strong and weak. We have low commodity prices, we have barriers to entry for new farmers, we have challenges transferring property to the next generation. Hope is finding new ways to bring agriculturalists together so that we can use the greatest strength…our people. Virginians know what it’s about to face adversity. They know how to move beyond to care for their family, care for their community, and care for the world.
The strength of Virginia agriculture is it’s location. We are within eight hours of so many people. We have great ports to import and export goods.
Cohort V features teachers, nurses, elected officials, lenders, and sales specialists. The rural community needs the broad and diverse groups to make the Commonwealth even more prosperous performers and their customers.
A common thread amongst the group was the need for a better rural infrastructure. The Covid epidemic has laid bare the discrepancies between urban, suburban and rural communities. Rural communities need access to high-speed Internet for their kids, schools, and farm technologies. Now is the time to take action on the most important part of community viability.
Duplicate food systems were also identified as a challenge for the local communities. The food shortages in some areas were not able to be fixed with local produce due to the processing limitations. Virginia has an ample supply of beef, yet getting it to a processor poses more and more of a challenge. How can we provide greater service to our community and to a farmers when we have no way of bringing these supply and demand‘s together. Now is the time to forge ahead in partnerships with these diverse groups to make these systems happen.
The theme in our inaugural class was the diversity of our group and agriculture in Virginia. Respect For one another’s perspectives is vital. Groupthink will not make these challenges go away. Reaching out across this platform makes the rural community a vibrant environment.