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Catching Up

– Paul B.

With the new year it seems fitting that I work to not let things linger until they are forgotten or overcome by other events. VALOR Class VI has just completed it’s 3rd seminar (Richmond – Legislative Advocacy & Policy Development), and yet this will be my first blog post [plenty of encouragement from my cohorts 😂 ]. Please forgive the longevity of this post.

In 4 days we covered alot of ground (physically and metaphorically).


Legislative Advocacy & Policy Development

Wednesday: We kicked off Wednesday afternoon at the office of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). A brief re-introduction with the VDACS Commissioner of Agriculture – Mr. Joe Guthrie, before our meeting with the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry – Matt Lohr, Secretary of Commerce and Trade – Caren Merrick, Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources – Travis Voyles, Secretary of Labor – Bryan Slater, Chief Deputy of Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation – Andrew Smith, and Director of Resource Management – Andrew Wheeler. It is refreshing to see such a diverse and dynamic slate of individuals functioning in government. In a group setting (the Governor’s Cabinet Room), these men and women took their time to meet with our cohort, explain what they do and how they look forward to working with the other secretaries for the betterment of Virginia and her citizens.

Following our meeting with the Secretaries, we retired to our hotel – the old Miller & Rhodes Department Store, which has now been converted to a Hilton hotel. After a change of clothes, it was my privilege to provide introduction to Mrs. Tanya Cauthen of Belmont Butchery . Tanya provided an overview of her background, her launch of the butchery, support of local food movement, her success on Season 34 of Chopped, and provided us with a sample of her Pate Maison. Tanya also packed a goodie-bag which she brought to our next stop; Pork Rillettes, Crackers, Cheeses…etc. It was then onto Reservoir Distillery to meet with proprietor – Dave Cuttino. Dave provided on overview of his background as an engineer and the road that ultimately led him to launch a distillery in the Richmond neighborhood Scott’s Addition*.

VALOR Class VI – in the Governor’s Cabinet Room with Secretaries

Thursday: Thursday we were tasked with meeting individually with our own delegates, and provide an introduction to ourselves as constituents. This was another new area for me, although I know who my delegate is – Del. Buddy Fowler (59th District), I had never before gone to visit his office. While waiting to meet with Del. Fowler, I was surprised to see a few familiar faces (outside of VALOR) there to meet with their delegates. After meeting with our delegates, it was time to attend the General Assembly, where VALOR Class VI was introduced by Delegate Bobby Orrock. Did you know that anyone is welcome to attend the chambers of the General Assembly while in session?

VALOR Class VI in the Gallery of the Virginia House of Delegates

After a lunch break, it was time to meet with the VDACS Deputy Commissioner – Charles Green. An incredibly sharp individual with a full plate. Several points during our group discussion, Mr. Green took questions and provided answers…with my personal farm growth over the last year, we have worked extensively with VDACS and so I had quite a bit of feedback (positive) and also some questions. Mr. Green was prompt in providing a written response (via email) to me with some additional points of contact to follow-up with.

Thursday Evening: My first time at the annual Virginia Agribusiness Legislative Appreciation Dinner hosted by the Virginia Agribusiness Council, this was the 51st Annual Event – wonderful event held at Richmond’s Main Street Train Station showcasing various elements of Virginia Agriculture; Pork, Peanuts, Oysters, Baked Goods, Beer, Wine, and Whiskey. In addition to many of our legislators present for this year’s event, the Executive Branch was present with the 74th Governor of Virginia – Glenn Youngkin speaking, and reaffirming his administration’s commitment to growing Virginia Agriculture.

Reception – 51st Virginia Agribusiness Legislative Appreciation

Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaking at the 51st Virginia Agribusiness Legislative Appreciation Supper

Friday: Friday the day was spent at the Virginia Farm Bureau Office, divided into two parts. Part 1 – Media Training with Mr. Norm Hyde and Ms. Nicole Zima. During this workshop, VALOR fellows were given a slate of talking points pulled from recent discussion around Utility Solar Power Generation. Mr. Hyde and Ms. Zima then proceeded to conduct live mock interviews (complete with cameras, lighting, and microphones). Following each mock interview, participating fellows were then given feedback. An interesting exercise, and one that I think I personally could benefit more from.

Another Assessment: Pre-seminar we were asked to complete the Clifton Strengths Assessment online…my top 5 results were interesting – and I am looking forward to learning more about how these influence my character and leadership style, as I work through the accompanying book: Input, Restorative, Responsibility, Learner, and Belief. As part of the seminar, Mr. Dana Fisher (VALOR Inaugural Class) ran us through a workshop, learning how the different strength sets provide compliment to one another, and how they may also be grouped by domain. Growing up in the boy scouts, I learned a long time ago that high functioning organizations are successful by having a good mix of peoples. After this workshop, and reading into the Strengths Based Leadership book, I now know the mix of people observed was a mix of the complimentary strengths each individual contributed to the team. Although we only discussed the top 5 strengths of each individual, I am excited to dive into my top 10, and perhaps my top 15.

Saturday: A bit more relaxed than the rest of the week, the group was treated Saturday morning to a tour of the Capital Building. An exciting treat, as I think the last time I visited the interior of the Capital Building was maybe 2nd or 3rd grade. It was a nice refresher to Virginia History, and I look forward to more opportunities to visit in the future. A special highlight for this trip was visiting the farm of my friend – Mr. CJ Isbell (VALOR Inaugural Class) Keenbell Farm.

CJ provided an overview of his operation (pasture-based multi-species, non-gmo specialty grains and popcorn, retail food establishment), and treated Class VI to lunch including FRESH-cased sausages (Jalapeno & Cheddar, Chipotle) he made for our visit. Following lunch, CJ gave a farm tour through his shops, and then Class VI was invited to participate in a brief workshop stuffing sausage using collagen and hog casings. CJ had prepped maple sausage, sage sausage, apple streudel sausage, jalapeno and cheddar, and my personal favorite – chipotle. Always a treat to work with other people and ideas, of course the samples packed and sent home were a nice treat as well.

Mrs. Lyndsie Young presents Mr. CJ Isbell a token of our appreciation for supporting the VALOR Program.

Obverse – The Great Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Capital Building Rotunda**

OK – for those who made it this far…with 11 of us writing about much of the same stuff through our shared experiences (who we visited, what we did) – I want to know what the reader wants to see. It is easy to write, but perhaps far less easy to be engaging with what is written. As a details person, I found myself having to constantly cut-down the length of text, and by this point fear I have already lost the attention of the reader.


*Scott’s Addition: Embarrassing to note, I was asked the question why this particular area of Richmond was named ‘Scott’s Addition’. At the moment, I could not recall the answer…in fact, I don’t know that I had ever known the answer. The neighborhood of Scott’s Addition is named after Major General Winfield Scott <https://www.scottsaddition.com/history-of-scotts-addition/&gt;.

**The Great Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia – the central figure of the seal is often referred to as ‘Lady Virginia’, and while she is a lady, she is more. The central figure is Virtus (Virtue) representing the genius of our government (and divine right for self-rule), and in her left hand a sheathed parazonium (not just a sword), the parazonium signifies authority. <https://www.bluebook.virginia.gov/2021/about-virginia/history-of-the-great-seal/&gt;, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_and_seal_of_Virginia&gt;

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