The Virginia Agriculture Leaders Obtaining Results (VALOR) Program has selected its inaugural class, which comprises 11 outstanding individuals from throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The 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.
“I am excited about the group we have compiled for the inaugural class,” said Megan Seibel, VALOR director. “We have great expectations for the individuals selected. They will lay the foundation for the program and establish its reputation for greatness among industry stakeholders. We anticipate their tremendous impact as strong industry leaders for years to come.”
Members of the VALOR inaugural class are
- Roger Elkins of Jonesville, Va., construction manager with Virginia Department of Transportation and operator of Elkins Sandy Spring Farm;
- Dana Fisher of New Market, Va., agricultural education teacher at Central High School;
- Ben Grove of Blacksburg, Va., development officer with College of Agriculture and Life Sciences;
- Ian Heatwole of Weyers Cave, Va., producer and manager of Fox Run Farms LLC and FRF Cross Keys LLC;
- Matt Hickey of Staunton, Va., owner of Classic Carriage LLC and vice president of Blue Ridge Mass Appraisal Company;
- Jim Hilleary of Marshall, Va., who retired from the U.S. Army, coordinator of Fauquier Education Farm and business management instructor with University of Phoenix;
- C.J. Isbell of Rockville, Va., co-owner and managing member of Keenbell Farm LLC and professional firefighter and paramedic in Washington, D.C.;
- Teresa Lindberg of Jarratt, Va., agricultural education teacher at Edward W. Wyatt Middle School and past-president of the Virginia Association of Agricultural Educators;
- Hunter Richardson of Shacklefords, Va., owner/operator of Scattered Acres Farm;
- Ken Ryan of Edinburg, Va., credit analyst with MidAtlantic Farm Credit; and
- Andrew Smith of Beaverdam, Va., senior assistant director of governmental relations with Virginia Farm Bureau Federation and owner of a commercial hay operation.
Program application was open to public and private sectors of the agriculture industry in Virginia, and more than 100 nominations were submitted. Nominees represented a spectrum of producers and service providers with a variety of specialized knowledge and skills. Participant selection was based on a detailed online application and face-to-face interview.
Individuals have been notified of their acceptance, and the first of 12 program seminars will take place in September. Class members will gain and share experiences throughout the two-year program that will take them to local, national, and international destinations in order to further explore social, political, and economic issues related to agriculture, while developing the skills necessary to serve as industry leaders and advocates.