I’ve been involved in the agricultural industry my whole life, being born into a multigenerational dairy operation in Amelia County, VA. Growing up in this industry has definitely shaped the person I am today. From an early age, I remember playing on the farm, feeding calves, raking hay, and helping out whenever necessary. Being involved in 4-H Dairy Club, participating in judging contests and the Junior Dairyman’s contest at the state fair each year, as well as Dairy Bowl teams was so rewarding. My grandparents and parents have always been involved in the industry by volunteering their time to serve on industry association boards, local and state Farm Bureau, and taking various industry, community, and church leadership positions. They have modeled for me the importance of being involved in the industry in which you do business, as well as the community where you live in order to stay informed and make your voice heard.
Visiting Virginia Tech at a young age certainly helped solidify my decision to attend VT in Dairy Science (as well as the fact my future husband was already at VT). Once I took my first Agricultural Economics classes with Dr. Dixie Dalton, Dr. Wayne Purcell, and Dr. Mike Ellerbrock, I realized I was more interested in the business and economics side of agriculture than production, which led me to major in Ag Econ with a minor in Dairy Science. My vague career goal since high school has been to “help farmers” and I never knew exactly how that would play out with a career choice. When I got the opportunity to work with Dr. Dave Kohl first as a teaching assistant and then on a Master’s Degree in Ag Finance, focusing on credit training for Farm Credit loan officers, I didn’t fathom that this would lead to a career. We worked on developing online training before online training was mainstream. I remember Dr. Kohl’s schematic that laid out my project on a Delta Airlines napkin, saying “This could go nationwide!” I didn’t believe him.
I’ve been privileged to continue working with Dr. Kohl and AgFirst Farm Credit Bank for nearly 20 years managing Farm Credit University, a nationwide blended training program for lenders and producers. The opportunity to work with Dr. Kohl has taught me the importance of networking and building relationships with those you meet on a daily basis. His vast network across the country and the globe is a testament to getting to know so many on a personal basis. He has taught me the value of connecting people and recognizing individuals for the skills and talents they bring to the table, regardless of official position. I hope I’m able to continue to connect people through my network, and expand my network through participation in VALOR.
Many mentors at AgFirst Farm Credit Bank and the associations we serve have taught me the value of integrity and the importance of servant leadership by serving the customers of the cooperative, the associations and member-borrowers across the country. I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many Farm Credit lenders as they’re starting their careers, and I recognize the value of what they do, providing financing to the fantastic farmers who feed us each day.
As I embark on the VALOR journey over the next two years, I’m looking forward to building relationships with the individuals in my cohort, as well as the agricultural stakeholders we meet during our trips across the state. I look forward to learning more about Virginia’s role in the larger U.S. and global agricultural industry. I hope to be able to better instill in my three daughters an appreciation for all hard working farmers producing the food, fiber and fuel we need daily, as well as the opportunities agriculture provides for a fulfilling career.