Only four months have gone by since the start of our VALOR adventure and we are already done with our third seminar! This particular journey took us to Richmond to explore the ins and outs of the Commonwealth’s government.
On Wednesday we had the privilege to meet with the Commissioner of Agriculture, Joe Guthrie, in the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) to learn a bit more about what they do. We also had the opportunity to meet with the following members of the Governor’s cabinet and other key people in state government:
- Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry: Matt Lohr
- Secretary of Commerce and Trade: Caren Merrick
- Secretary of Labor: Bryan Slater
- Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources: Travis Voyles
- Director of the Office of Regulatory Management: Andrew Wheeler
- Chief Deputy Director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation & VALOR Alumni: Andrew Smith
I have pages of notes on what was talked about in this meeting, but one thing that stuck out to me was Mr. Wheeler and his department. One of the tasks he has been given by our Governor is going through all of Virginia’s regulations one by one, analyzing and determining whether these regulations are still needed. I can only imagine how painstaking that process is, but one that is much needed.
Later that evening we went to Belmont Butchery to learn from Tanya Cauthen and what she has accomplished for Richmond with her local meat market. Following the butchery, we visited Reservoir Distillery for some great food and beverages!
I think Thursday was one of the most inspiring days. I had the opportunity to meet with my delegate and various delegates from across the Commonwealth. Then, we watched the day’s session in the House of Delegates that afternoon. Although what was discussed that day was not terribly serious, it was interesting to see all of the people it takes to make a session work smoothly.
That evening we attended the 51st Virginia Agribusiness Council Dinner. The sheer size of this event was mind blowing! Almost 1,000 people ranging from farmers to our Governor were in attendance.
On Friday, we headed to the Virginia Farm Bureau office. Mr. Norm Hyde prepared us for what it would be like to participate in a media interview and we each completed a mock interview. I never realized how phrasing and word choices can have such an impact on how an interview with the media could be interpreted by those watching. Dana Fisher, VALOR Alumni and VAFB’s Senior District Field Services Representative, went over the results of the strengths based leadership assessment. This was fascinating and thought provoking because it made me think and look at myself in a different way by analyzing my strengths. To round out this visit, Stefanie Taillon, VALOR Alumni and VAFB’s Assistant Director of Government Relations, met with us to discuss Virginia Farm Bureau’s role in advocating on behalf of its members and agriculture in our state.
On our final day, we visited Keenbell Farms, owned by VALOR Alumni and 2020 Virginia Farmer of the Year CJ Isbell. We learned about his regenerative farming practices on his farm to table operation in Rockville. I think one of the things I found most intriguing here was his chicken processing facility where he butchers his own chickens on the farm.
Overall, this trip showed me a side of agriculture in our state that few farmers get to see. We met with a lot of officials and people who are not directly on a farm everyday, but are key to keeping our farmers and government working together to provide safe and healthy food to our Commonwealth.