The Virginia Agricultural Leaders Obtaining Results program recently announced the 14 new fellows who will spend the next two years building their leadership skills. 

Based in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech, VALOR is a two-year program for agricultural leaders who want to develop their communication, problem solving, and critical thinking skills in addition to broadening their knowledge of global and local agriculture in the pursuit of becoming an advocate for agriculture and a leader in the industry. 

The group recently met in Blacksburg for the first of 12 seminars over the next two years. Future meetings will be held in locations across Virginia, as well as Washington, D.C, and other cities in the across the United States and abroad. 

The VALOR program develops leaders who can effectively engage all segments of the Virginia agricultural community to create collaborative solutions and promote agriculture inside and outside of the industry. 

In past program cycles, VALOR fellows have traveled the commonwealth from rural regions of Appalachia to urban hubs in Northern Virginia, as well as the nation’s capital in order to network with producers, policymakers, distributors, and other stakeholders within the agricultural industry. 

The inaugural class of fellows also traveled to Argentina for a two-week survey of the country’s agricultural industry and got a first-hand look at industry sectors including agricultural manufacturing, processing, research and development, crop production, livestock breeding and genetics, economics, governmental regulation, and education. 

“This is an extraordinary group of people,” said Megan Seibel, VALOR’s director. “The skills they learn over the next two years will not only benefit them, but the agricultural industry as a whole.” 

The new group of fellows highlights the diversity of the agricultural industry itself. 

  • Marilyn Adams of Purcellville, Virginia, branch manager with Farm Credit of the Virginias. Adams received a bachelor of science in agricultural and applied economics from Virginia Tech in 1991 and a master of science from the same department in 1992. 
  • Lauren Arbogast of Harrisonburg Virginia, Virginia Cooperative Extension program coordinator of community viability.
  • Melvin Atkinson of Windsor, Virginia, director of the Airfield 4-H Center.
  • Shelley Barlow of Suffolk, Virginia, vice president of Cotton Plains Farm.
  •  Kevin Beamer of Hillsville, Virginia, chief executive officer of Virginia Produce Company and a member of the Virginia Cattleman’s Association. 
  • Timothy Durham of Callaway, Virginia, assistant professor of agronomy and an agricultural science program coordinator at Ferrum College.
  • M. James Faison of Richmond, Virginia, president of Milton’s Local Harvest.
  • Basil Gooden of Henrico, Virginia, director of Virginia Rural Development with USDA.
  • Jennifer Leech of Lexington, Virginia, dairy farmer with Ingleside Dairy Farm.
  • Albert Reid of Petersburg, Virginia, 4-H specialist and aquaculture agent at Virginia State University.
  • Adam Shiflett of Harrisonburg, Virginia, lending team leader with Farm Credit of the Virginias.
  • Josh Stephens of Quicksburg, Virginia, general manager with Southern States Cooperative.
  • Joe Wilkerson of South Boston, Virginia, owner of Southside Nursery and Landscape.
  • Cliff Williamson of Culpeper Virginia, an animal export consultant with TK Exports.