RICHMOND—Winners of three Virginia Farm Bureau Federation competitions will compete against their peers from across the nation at the 2019 American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention. John and Lydia Shepherd of Nottoway County, winners of the VFBF Young Farmers of the Year Achievement Award; Amy G. Fannon of Lee County, winner of the VFBF Young Farmers Excellence in Agriculture Award; and Jesse Martin of Rockingham County, winner of the VFBF Young Farmers Discussion Meet, will attend the event, which will be held Jan. 11-16 in New Orleans. They will compete for the AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Achievement Award, Excellence in Agriculture Award and Discussion Meet title. 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 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. She and her sister are the fourth generation to help run her family’s farm. The Discussion Meet competition is designed to simulate a committee meeting in which discussion and active participation is expected from each contestant. Competitors are judged on their discussion skills, understanding of important agricultural issues and how well they build a consensus. This year’s final-round topic was “In our modern world, the rapid dissemination of information and opinion about agriculture and food technologies can make it difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. Given these challenges, how can Farm Bureau best protect farmers’ and ranchers’ access to production technology options?” During the event Martin said farmers need to communicate outside of their tribe. “We need to be a unified voice accepting of all areas of agriculture and moving the ball forward.” Winners of the AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Achievement Award, Discussion Meet and Excellence in Agriculture Award will receive a new Ford truck or vehicle of equal value, along with paid registration to the 2019 Farm Bureau FUSION Conference, courtesy of Ford. The FUSION Conference will be held in March in Milwaukee, Wis. Media: Contact Pam Wiley, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1128.