WYTHEVILLE (VR) — Over 200 young farmers and budding agriculturalists gathered to network and discuss agricultural issues at the 2022 Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers Summer Expo, held July 29-31 in Wytheville.
The expo kicked off with a keynote speech from Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Joe Guthrie, who encouraged attendees to explore foreign markets for their products.
Guthrie also participated in a panel discussion with Del. David Reid, D-Ashburn, and Del. Marie March, R-Floyd. The trio answered questions from the audience about the increasing difficulty of obtaining land; labor shortages; and solar facilities, and how lawmakers can help solve those issues.
Attendees took part in workshops about the National Cattlemen’s Beef Quality Assurance program, drone piloting, pesticide certification and managing family dynamics on the farm. The expo also featured tours to Wytheville-area dairies and agritourism destinations.
During the event’s awards dinner, farmers and VFBF staff were recognized for their outstanding achievements in supporting Virginia agriculture.
Jacob and Jennifer Gilley, who operate Heaven’s Hollow Farm in Orange and Madison counties, took home the VFBF Young Farmers Excellence in Agriculture Award. The award recognizes involvement in agriculture, leadership ability and participation in Farm Bureau and other organizations.
On their farm, the Gilleys raise broiler chickens, cattle, pigs and sheep; and market meat and eggs under the Heaven’s Hollow Farm brand. The couple represents District 7 on the VFBF Young Farmers Committee, and Jacob serves as president of Orange County Farm Bureau.
Tanner Wise of Buckingham County was named the 2022 VFBF Outstanding Young Agriculturalist. The award honors high school juniors and seniors for academic, community and agribusiness achievements.
Wise earned dual degrees from Buckingham County High School and Southside Virginia Community College, and plans to pursue a degree in animal and poultry science at Virginia Tech. He also served as president of his high school’s FFA chapter and the Buckingham County 4-H Livestock Club.
Additionally, the Young Farmers Committee presented its Warren Beach Award to Ron Saacke, VFBF vice president of special programs, in recognition of nearly two decades of dedication and outstanding contributions to the Young Farmers Program.
The Virginian Review has been serving Covington, Clifton Forge, Alleghany County and Bath County since 1914.