The inaugural class of the Virginia Agriculture Leaders Obtaining Results program graduated from the two-year fellowship on July 19 at the Hotel Roanoke.
The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ VALOR Program is designed to develop leaders who can effectively engage all segments of the Virginia agricultural community to create collaborative solutions and promote agriculture inside and outside the industry.
A proclamation from Governor Terry McAuliffe recognizing the event was read during the ceremony’s greetings to program fellows, special guests and families, and, advisory council members. In attendance were the Commissioner of Agriculture Sandy Adams, and keynote speaker Matt Rush, a fourth generation farmer and rancher from New Mexico, among other agriculture industry stakeholders.
During the graduation ceremony Advisory Council members were recognized for their service and contribution to the inaugural program. Stan Brantley, formerly president of Amadas Industries — a world leader in peanut harvesting technology — was posthumously recognized for his service as a member.
Prior to the graduation ceremony, the inaugural cohort had one final session in servant leadership at Feeding America Southwest Virginia in Salem where fellows sorted pallets of food and other items for repacking and distribution, assembled crates, and also gave a monetary donation.
Graduates received certificates of achievement and program lapel pins. Personal best leadership projects were featured from the graduates in the ceremony program, and highlighted independent projects they have been planning and executing throughout the last year.
“It is hard to believe that two years has come to a close with this inaugural class,” said Megan Seibel, director of the VALOR program. “I have been honored to see the ideas that were developed put into practice as we travelled and learned together. VALOR is in a very exciting position as these men and women begin our alumni legacy and we prepare to welcome the second group of fellows.”
Over the span of the last two years, VALOR fellows participated in 12 seminars that took them across the commonwealth and the globe to Argentina where they were greeted by myriad representatives of the agricultural sector including cattle ranchers, oyster harvesters, Christmas tree farmers, berry growers, national grocery store chains, and farm credit agencies to name a few. Seminars gave VALOR fellows an up-close look at food production and distribution in both urban and rural settings taking them to urban hubs in Northern Virginia and rural farmlands.
Inaugural VALOR fellows include:
- Roger Elkins of Jonesville, Virginia
- Dana Fisher of New Market, Virginia
- Benjamin Grove of Blacksburg, Virginia
- Ian Heatwole of Weyers Cave, Virginia
- Matt Hickey of Staunton, Virginia
- CJ Isbell of Rockville, Virginia
- Teresa Lindberg of Jarratt, Virginia
- Hunter Richardson of Shacklesford, Virginia
- Kenna Ryan of Edinburg, Virginia
- Andrew Smith of Beaverdam, Virginia