On Janurary 4, the VALOR Fellows embarked on their third seminar in the Shenandoah Valley and, true to form, this seminar was just as exciting and jam-packed as those previous. Class members were involved in media training at WVPT in Harrisonburg and had an opportunity to do on-camera interviews. The class then partnered with industry leaders to conduct appreciative interviews. After many words of wisdom were shared, a dynamic panel discussed contemporary agricultural issues and innovative approaches to understanding them.
The first tour of the seminar was at White Wave Foods in Mount Crawford. The class had an opportunity to taste some of their products and talk with plant managers about plant operations and continuous improvement. Following the tour, the class traveled to Covington, Va., to explore the MeadWestvaco Paper Mill. VALOR Fellows observed the milling process from timber to paper product while discussing everything from energy and efficiency to forestry and sustainability.
On day three, class members examined tree seedlings while touring the Virginia Forestry Department Nursery in Crimora, Va. The nursery manger explained the narrow margins within which he works and the careful calculations required for plantings. In Lexington, Va., the class meet with the Leech family, pioneers of dairy farming and the application of robotic milking parlors. Then the group toured and talked with many individuals working for the Virginia Poultry Cooperative about regulations, economics, and resiliency. After learning from a Virginia Poultry Grower and Advisory Council member about biosecurity and poultry science, the class viewed “American Meat” directed by Graham Meriwether. Members of the class identified a desperate need to proactively and positively portray agriculture the future of agriculture while representing both direct market farming and production agriculture.
Jeff Slaven and his family conversed with the class about leading practices in the beef industry and expanding local business impact on Sunday morning. In a subsequent tour of Railside Enterprises, VALOR fellows learned about how the business is impacted by legislation, transportation, and niche markets. The seminar concluded after hearing from leaders in the company who challenged class members to be knowledgeable and engaged in agricultural legislation as advocates for the industry.
Special thanks to Bruce Bowman, Stan Brantley, Eric Fitzgerald, Dwight Houff, David Lawrence, Vernon Meacham, Wayne Pryor, Paul Rogers, David Shiflett, CG Thornhill for sharing your insight and wisdom with the VALOR Fellows.
— Kelsey Brunton