The VALOR V fellows visited the Shenandoah Valley in March due to COVID altering our schedule. To us, the altered timing was par for the course for agriculturists managing their operations during this challenging year. It signified the ability of the group to be resilient and know that the changes in schedules didn’t impact the learning, rather it made the learning that much more memorable.
My takeaways were the lessons learned from an already changed (and ever changing) world of agriculture. Two dairies, two huge changes in the way they operate—Rainbow trout with the Leech family and robots with the Heatwole family. Locally grown cut flowers to grace the palettes of brides and beyond, already a recognition of the opportunities in a pre-COVID world. Ag inputs and trucking morphed into a business model shaped by the talents of its member-owners. Sweet syrup and plentiful timber from the resilient Highland County producers. Energy opportunities to power the valley for years to come.
All of these companies recognized the changing markets. Some were days in the making as with Harmony Harvest Flowers pivoting to online-sales direct to consumers. Others were years in the making as with the Houff businesses continually tweaking their operation until that next big opportunity presented itself.
What made these operations stand out was their roots-strong and deep. The Valley is known as the breadbasket of the state for its ag production. Its fertile soil provides food for communities far and wide. This area also produces the strong leaders whose deep character withstands the changing environment of this world.