During the second seminar of their two-year fellowship, members of VALOR Class II explored agriculture in the Tidewater and Eastern Shore regions of the commonwealth while learning about product marketing, development, and trade on local and global levels. The seminar, which took place Nov. 13-16, was based in Suffolk, Virginia, to allow for easy access to various points in the area.
During the session, fellows explored domestic and international production and manufacturing with peanut harvesting equipment global leaders, Amadas Industries. A subsequent visit to Amadas Coach offered an inside look at how the company branched into the luxury coach business as a means of diversifying their fabrication capabilities and market portfolio.
Another company with a huge domestic and international footprint, Smithfield Foods, allowed a tour of the packing plant and Innovation Space as well as a question and answer with two of Smithfield’s executives knowledgeable about corporate communications and sustainability, and product research and development. VALOR fellows were treated to a taste-testing session for some of the anticipated holiday bacon flavors, which was an unexpected and memorable experience.
Further evidence of Virginia’s role as a critical player in the global agricultural product market was provided during a visit to Royal Fumigation where we learned about the impact of China’s ban on lumber transported through and from Virginia, and how the state negotiated that trade agreement and now prepares product for export overseas.
From a commodity agriculture and specialty crop standpoint, we explored cotton, soybeans, peanuts, wheat, freshwater black bass, and organic sweet potatoes. Company owners and scientists shared knowledge of production challenges and opportunities at Commonwealth Cotton Gin, Rogers’ Farms, Quail Cove Organics, and Mid-Atlantic Aquatic Technology, LLC.
We traveled to many places in which Virginia showcases very specialized crops that contribute to a diversified agricultural industry and situate us competitively in a variety of local, regional, and international arenas. There was even a session on advanced precision agriculture technology from James River Equipment specialist, Matthew Brantley.
Leadership lessons are always a part of VALOR seminars. Fellows gained insight about themselves during a training session on Emotional Intelligence from certified trainer Stacey Harvey. Two dinner functions offered exposure to different area leaders and the insights they have gained throughout their professional careers, including an area Agricultural Education instructor, the owner of Commonwealth Cotton Gin, the owner of Rogers Farms, the Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture, and researchers at the Eastern Shore AREC. A special recognition was done for VALOR Advisory Council member Paul Rogers, and in memory of former member, Stan Brantley.
The final day of the second seminar began at Colonial Farm Credit where fellows discussed international destination options and the basics of networking in agricultural leadership programs before departing for home.
For more information about the VALOR program, please visit the VALOR website or contact the program director, Megan Seibel. Please also follow the VALOR blog to see the exciting adventures of our program fellows!