Fourth VALOR class to hone problem-solving skills, promote Va. agriculture

Fourth VALOR class to hone problem-solving skills, promote Va. agriculture
BLACKSBURG—The fourth and largest class of Virginia’s annual agricultural leadership program has begun, and participants are looking forward to learning more about Virginia agriculture in a regional, state and world context.

The Virginia Agriculture Leaders Obtaining Results program, which is housed in Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is one of about 40 agricultural leadership programs in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia. VALOR participants meet every other month for two years to train, network and travel throughout Virginia. The training also includes leadership discourse to prepare the 18 fellows to become leaders in facilitating community problem-solving and promoting Virginia agriculture.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of VALOR is taking what we learn and applying it to our work in the industry,” remarked Stefanie Kitchen, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation legislative specialist and a new VALOR fellow. “Farm Bureau members and staff have participated in VALOR since its inception, and I think it makes for a much stronger and proactive organization.”

The “obtaining results” portion of the program’s name was what prompted Morgan Slaven, development associate for Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom, to apply for this year’s VALOR class.

“Anyone can learn industry issues, meet key stakeholders and take personality assessments. But what good is that experience if you don’t actively apply it to a purpose?” Slaven noted. “I believe that VALOR’s structure is set up for the intent that each fellow graduates with the knowledge they need to create positive change within the agriculture industry. I’m looking forward to gaining that knowledge.”

In addition to visiting diverse farming operations and learning about their challenges, the fellows visit the state and national capitals. The program concludes with an international trip to learn about agriculture in another country. Previous classes have visited South Africa, Argentina and Vietnam.

“Seminar content is a hybrid of ‘must keep’ content from previous years and new experiences unique for each class,” noted Dr. Megan Siebel, VALOR’s director. “As a result, our entire group of current and past VALOR fellows has a broader collective knowledge of the great diversity and impact represented by the many facets of Virginia agriculture.”

Slaven said she has learned that each class has its own unique characteristics based on the background and interests of the fellows. “I feel that the opportunity for peer-learning will be one of the greatest take-aways from this experience. Each member comes to the table with a fascinating reason why they applied to be part of the program.”

Support for VALOR comes from organizations like Farm Credit of the Virginias and Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, small businesses, foundations and individuals.

Media: Contact Kitchen at 804-290-1019, Slaven at 804-290-0000 or Seibel at 540-231-2375. 

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