Young Farmer in a Class By Herself

Mindy 2Today’s farmers and ranchers are accustomed to wearing a lot of hats, juggling a variety of roles to meet the demands of 21st-century agriculture. Mindy McCroskey of Bristol, Virginia, is a good example of this multi-tasking trend. To hear her tell it, she’s just doing what comes naturally.

“I’ve lived on a farm my whole life,” she says. “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love cattle. I started showing at 4H when I was 9 and got my first registered Simmental when I was 11.

“Right now I have 19 cows and their calves, all registered Simmentals. They’re not as large framed as some of the breed. And while people may picture Simmentals as gold or white or red, I raise black cattle,” she says. “Black cattle are just sort of popular around here.”

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From the Field: Equipment Safety a Big Concern for Young Farmers

Safety YFsFrom the Field is an occasional column written by Mark Campbell, Farm Bureau Field Services Director for the Central District. He writes about Farm Bureau member benefits and County Farm Bureau activities.

It is one thing to be safety conscious for yourself, but when you take farm equipment on the highway, your safety zone extends to everyone else on the road. It’s hard enough to share the road when your equipment takes up more than a lane and trying not to hit mailboxes or run in the ditch. Today compared to maybe 20 years ago, or even 5 years; equipment is larger, automobile drivers are more hurried and distracted with cell phones or vehicle technology. So farmers have to look out for the safety of others, and even more so now, anticipate what drivers will do.

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Video: Ag and Forestry U.S. Senate Candidates Forum Wrap-Up

In case you missed the Agriculture and Forestry U.S. Senate Candidates Forum last month in Lynchburg with George Allen and Tim Kaine and hosted by the Virginia Farm Bureau Young Farmers Committee, watch the video below.  Thanks to Farm Bureau’s Communications Department for the great footage!

Young Farmers and VDACS unveil Farm Seekers program

Have you ever wanted to break into farming, but didn’t have the resources to begin? Or maybe you already have farming experience, but are looking for land to expand your operation? Agriculture remains a diverse and challenging industry, and farmers exist at all different experience levels. As older farmers retire and look to transition their farms, steps must to be taken in order to preserve Virginia’s number one industry. This principle paved the way for the Certified Farm Seekers program.

The Certified Farm Seekers program is a collaboration between Virginia Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, funded by the Virginia Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Coalition Project. It is a self-guided program that strives to provide individuals seeking farming opportunities with the tools needed to successfully demonstrate their farming commitment and vision to interested landowners. After completion, participants will be expected to produce a resume, business plan, and demonstrate on-farm experience. Five modules are available as resources to assist in accomplishing these goals: Introduction to Whole Farm Planning, Business Management, Land Acquisition and Tenure, Marketing, and On-Farm Experience. This is NOT a course to teach people how to farm, but is designed for all farmers, including beginning, transitioning, and established.

The benefits for beginning farmers are apparent, but as a transitioning or established farmer, you may wonder if you have any need for this program. The answer is a resounding “Yes.” One of the most exciting incentives is elevation in the Virginia Farm Link Database. Farm Link is an online database designed to bring those landowners interested in passing land on to the next generation together with those interested in gaining access to farmland and farming operations in Virginia. Those who are dubbed “certified” will receive special designation in the database, thereby increasing their chances of being contacted by a landowner. Other incentives include a one- time professional business plan review, social/networking opportunities with other farmers/landowners, and possibly cost-share in time with a transition mediator or attorney.

For more information, visit or contact:

Stefanie Kitchen
(804) 290-1030

Ron Saacke
(804) 514-4202

Kevin Schmidt
(804) 786-1346

From the Field: Stepping Up to the Gate

From the Field is a bi-monthly column written by Mark Campbell, Farm Bureau Field Services Director for the Central District. He writes about Farm Bureau member benefits and County Farm Bureau activities.

I recently attended the Young Farmer Summer Expo in Lynchburg during the last weekend in July. The Young Farmer Expos are always filled with great learning and networking opportunities. The Expos are family oriented, and there are usually several small children in attendance.

Seeing the young farmers, ages 18-35, and the young kids, most at age 7 and under, keeps me optimistic about the future of agriculture. This scene that I snapped a picture of really got me thinking about how each generation faces different opportunities and challenges, and what kindles that passion for farming in the youngest among us.

I think all of us in agriculture will admit that there is a passion within us for agriculture. A driving force that is part of who we are. Many people develop that passion for farming early in life. Some have found that love for farming later in life. I think that passion for agriculture is contagious and is modeled to others in our work ethic on the farm and through our caretaking responsibilities over the resources that we manage during our lifetime. I think this is especially true with kids, and this is how they catch the passion for agriculture. The parents love it, so it is interwoven in their lives. Their kids see that they enjoy farming even though there are sometimes challenges and hard times. It usually involves outside activities with nature, which kids love.

Agriculture is a great family business in that all of the family members can be involved. Parents can take their kids to work. There are probably other small businesses where this occurs; but I think it is more predominant in agriculture. This passion for agriculture helps those entering into the agriculture field seek opportunities and tackle challenges.

I am not too far out of the age range of official young farmer status. However, when I give it a little more thought, some of the young farmers are 20 years younger than me. Each generation has opportunities and challenges that are different than the previous generation. Some things stay the same. Agriculture is always a blend of tried and true practices and traditions and new technologies, practices, and methods. Maybe it’s my age, but change seems to be occurring at a more rapid pace than it did several years ago.

Adaptability to change and flexibility in their enterprise are going to be key factors for young farmers’ success. From what I have seen, young farmers are up to the challenge. They can multi task with the best of them. Technology has obviously made that more possible. A big challenge will continue to be the large amount of capital involved in farming, whether you own your farm or rent. When tractors cost over $50,000 and a pot load of steers is $70,000; there is a lot of risk involved.

So what about the young farmers that were at the Expo? Will they be farming the same as my generation? As history shows; it will probably be a blend of the old mixed with the new. What about the boy in the picture? What will his agriculture industry look like? I don’t know. But I am sure that he will step up to the gate and be successful in an industry and lifestyle that he loves.

Agriculture and Forestry U.S. Senate Candidates Forum to be held in July

The Virginia Farm Bureau Young Farmers Committee will be hosting the Agriculture and Forestry U.S. Senate Candidates Forum in July. They have partnered with other agriculture and forestry groups to host this event in conjunction with their 2012 Young Farmer Summer Expo in Lynchburg. These partners are Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, Virginia Agribusiness Council, Virginia Forestry Association and Virginia Forest Products Association.

George Allen (Republican Nominee) and Tim Kaine (Democratic Nominee) have both agreed to participate. You will have the opportunity to submit written questions for each candidate during the forum. This is the only event planned with a specific focus on Virginia’s agriculture and forestry industry before the election on November 6. Time will be set aside to meet and greet the candidates.

WHEN: Friday, July 27, 3:00 PM to 5:30 PM

WHERE: James River Conference Center
400 Court Street
Lynchburg, VA 24504
(The Center is located in downtown Lynchburg off Rt. 29 Business. Traveling west on Main Street, turn left on 5th Street then right on Court Street. The Center will be on your right.)

RSVP: Please let Norma Opel know you are coming by Monday, July 23 by emailing her at or by phone at 804-290-1013.




Antibiotics in animal feed: Point/Counterpoint article needs farmers’ comments

Sam Gardner, president of Gardner Heifers Inc. in Bedford County and a Virginia Farm Bureau Young Farmer, was recently asked to submit an essay to the Roanoke Times on antibiotic use in agriculture for a point/counterpoint article on their “Roundtable” blog.

In his essay, Gardner explains that the use of antibiotics is crucial to his operation. He states, “My family and I work continually to improve animal care because it’s the right thing to do, and because our business prospects are only as good as the foods we ultimately produce. When antibiotics are used on our farm, they ensure the health and well-being of our animals. We follow safety protocols to ensure that all animals that leave our farm will produce food that is safe for my family and your family to enjoy at the dinner table.”

An opposing essay is written by Susan Vaughn Grooters, the director of research and education for STOP Foodborne Illness. She argues that antibiotic use in animal feed increases the number of antibiotic-resistant foodborne illnesses. “Consumers are shocked to learn that the same antibiotics used to treat their children are being fed to animals, not for infection treatment, but for outdated reasons like growth promotion when no evidence of disease is present for ‘prevention,'” she states. “Mothers don’t use antibiotics to treat their children in place of hygienic practices or for prevention purposes; neither should farmers.”

Please visit the blog here: and comment on the misconceptions of antibiotic use in agriculture animals and why they are an important tool farmers use to help ensure the health and well-being of their animals. We need more viewpoints from farmers on this article!

Contributors’ rebuttals will be published June 10.