It’s a watershed moment for VALOR fellows. The twelve fellows — beef farmers, a dairy herdsperson, a row crop farmer, entrepreneurs, and bankers — who were chosen a year ago to represent Virginia’s richly diverse agriculture perspectives are halfway through the two-year agriculture leadership program.
By the time you read this, the group will have spent the first year of their VALOR experience traveling Virginia, talking agrotourism with dairy farmers in Blue Ridge pastures, mulling peri-urban marketing with lettuce growers and mobile farmers’ marketeers in the greenhouses and parking lots of Northern Virginia, and polishing their media skills in Washington, D.C.
Traveling through each of Virginia’s nine agricultural regions, they’ve seen leadership in real-world context where communication, a big-picture contextual knowledge, and diplomacy help negotiate a path to innovation and progress.
Local hosts of each VALOR seminar are key stakeholders. Hosts provide a window into regional agriculture where environmental stewardship is smart business for oyster companies on the Northern Neck (see Fellow Lauren Arbogast’s article); county-supplied hydrocoolers and food hubs help southwest Virginia small farmers link to greater prosperity in a regional marketplace; and land-grant university science helps Northern Neck soybean growers reach a global market.
Having gathered regional and community agricultural context, these VALOR fellows are ready for national- and world-views. This winter they’ll travel to Florida, then Vietnam.