Va. Young Farmers win national awards at AFBF centennial convention

NEW ORLEANS—Virginia Young Farmers once again garnered national recognition as they competed at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s centennial convention Jan. 11-16.

Amy G. Fannon of Lee County was named first runner-up in the AFBF Excellence in Agriculture Award competition, and John and Lydia Shepherd of Nottoway County took third place in the national Achievement Award contest. Jesse Martin of Rockingham County competed in two rounds of the AFBF Discussion Meet.

Fannon said she was “shocked, but in a good way” when her name was announced. She’s excited about the Case IH Farmall 50A tractor from Case IH that she will receive as the Excellence in Agriculture runner-up.

The Shepherds called their third-place recognition “pretty amazing” and said the competition had been an exciting process but they were ready to go home and see their three children. They will receive a Case IH 40” Combination Roll Cabinet and Top Chest, a $500 parts card from Case IH, and $2,000 worth of Stanley Black & Decker merchandise, courtesy of Stanley Black & Decker.

The Excellence in Agriculture Award recognizes individuals for involvement in agriculture, leadership ability and involvement and participation in Farm Bureau and other organizations. Fannon is a Virginia Cooperative Extension unit coordinator and agriculture and natural resources agent in Lee County and previously was an agent in Wise County. She and her sister are the fourth generation to help run her family’s farm, where they raise pumpkins, corn and alfalfa hay.

Much of her work as an Extension agent, Fannon noted, serves farmers with limited resources. “People often think about the perfect farm and ‘what you are supposed to do,’” she said, but when addressing producers’ real-world problems, “I assist them in finding practical solutions to imperfect situations. These solutions help keep farmers operating and feeding their families.”

During her final presentation at the AFBF convention, Fannon shared that she has been able to secure $290,000 in grants and sponsorship money for local farmers. She believes that is one of her accomplishments that helped her stand out amongst the competition.

Fannon holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in crop and soil environmental sciences from Virginia Tech. She is a member of the National Association of County Agriculture Agents, the Virginia Association of Agriculture Extension Agents, the Virginia Extension Service Association, the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association, the Virginia Forage and Grasslands Council, and the Honor Society of Agriculture, Gamma Sigma Delta.

The Achievement Award honors young farmers who are successful in production agriculture and provide leadership on and off the farm. The Shepherds serve on the VFBF Young Farmers Committee and raise wheat, rapeseed, corn and soybeans on their farm near Blackstone.

Additionally, John Shepherd serves on the Nottoway County Farm Bureau board of directors, and Lydia Shepherd teaches at Kenston Forest School in Blackstone. The Shepherds were the recipients of the 2011 VFBF Young Farmers Environmental Stewardship Award.

John Shepherd started their farm from scratch, and the couple said “the fact that we built … from the ground up without inheriting a farm” helped them place so high in the national competition.

Media: Contact Kathy Dixon, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1137.

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