Ricky Haney

Strong Partnerships

Agriculture has had a bad rap over the years for environmental concerns-too much fertilizer, too many herbicides, too much tillage, no cover crops. Wherever your were, or are now, with your thinking, I encourage you to take a trip to the Northern Neck of Virginia for a reality check. You’ll see how the land stewards make it possible for our water stewards to grow some of the finest seafood in the country. The prosperity of one group is dependent on the other group.

The VALOR group had the privilege of visiting hard working and progressive farmers like Montague Farms and Haynie Farms. These farms utilize world wide markets and multiple businesses to diversify their operations. A common thread amongst them was the stewardship of their resources. They’ve utilized GPS and mapping tools to apply inputs specific to subjections of their fields to optimize production. These tools allow them to maximize production all the while addressing labor and environmental concerns.

The seafood producers like Three Rivers Seafood and Kellum Oysters rely on clean water to produce their crabs, oysters and other seafood. The land producers from the Chesapeake Bay water shed all contribute to the health of the bay. Without their good management practices, the water their maritime friends need to survive would not be present. We’ve seen over the last 40 years how farmers have led the movement to address the water health thru soil health practices.

The Northern Neck Technical Center represents another instance of strong partnerships. 4 local school systems have come together to support vocational training for their students. These training programs range from culinary arts to auto mechanics to health services. Students graduating from these programs have certifications to gain immediate employment in their trades. The teachers in these programs are amazing. Most have the ability to earn far more in their respective trade. They believe in the future of their community and stand by these young people who will make a difference for themselves and the world around them.

Full disclosure, I do have strong ties to this last partnership, but it is a partnership often overlooked. Farm Credit and other lenders support the lending needs of their community. These partnerships (Farm Credit is a member-owned cooperative who put their profits back into the pockets of their owners) provide the backbone for community vitality. Congress recognized the need for rural community credit over 100 years. The resulting constructive credit (Farm Credit) allowed farmers to access sound credit to produce the food and fiber necessary to feed local communities nationally and abroad.

We see the need now for strong partnerships as a result of the pandemic—Broadband upgrades, rural health initiatives, community vitality. We all recognize the need for those components. We’ve recognized these components for years. Now the issues are even more apparent. What partnerships can you engage to address these issues for our rural areas?

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