American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall visits Virginia farms

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American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall was the guest of honor on Aug. 5 during a tour of agricultural operations in Virginia’s Northern Neck and Tidewater regions hosted by Virginia Farm Bureau Federation leaders.

The day began at the annual Virginia Ag Expo in Middlesex County, where VFBF President Wayne F. Pryor introduced Duvall to Virginia farmers and industry associates. They then traveled to Montague Farms in Essex County, where Duvall was interviewed for Real Virginia, VFBF’s weekly television program.

“What makes (the U.S.) different from any other agriculture in the world is our infrastructure,” Duvall said during the interview. “Tear down barriers, give us a level playing field, and we’ll outcompete any farmer in the rest of world.”

An inquisitive leader of the country’s largest farm advocacy organization, Duvall asked Bill and Tom Taliaferro and Bill Henley to explain how Montague Farm’s fourth-generation, family-owned, food-quality grain production and export business operates.

County Farm Bureau leaders then joined the group at Garners Farm & Market in Richmond County. While there, owners Dana and Bernard Boyle shared how they market a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and value-added products.

Duvall had more questions for Marion and Kristy Packett, owners of Poplar Ridge Nursery in Westmoreland County, regarding their wholesale operation growing and shipping ornamental and native grasses and grass-like plants. They said business temporarily tanked when the pandemic first hit.

“In this business,” Duvall asked, “can you put things on hold?”

Not really, Marion Packett answered. “It would get overgrown pretty fast in small pots.”

However, the nursery went on to have its best sales year ever in 2020.

“People were home, and they had time on their hands for a lot of landscaping and gardening,” Packett explained. “It created demand in the nursery industry as a whole. And this year, believe it or not, has surpassed last year’s sales, which I didn’t think was possible.”

The day ended at Parker Farms, where Rod Parker and his staff run a multi-state operation that grows, packs and ships vegetables.

The next morning, Duvall served as keynote speaker for the VFBF County Presidents’ Conference in Richmond, where he discussed industry highlights and challenges, and shared personal anecdotes about his family.

He conveyed a sense of optimism and gratitude that the current presidential administration is eager to hear from U.S. farmers and keeps Farm Bureau at the table.

“We probably, as an organization, have never been this united, and it really makes me proud of you, your state staff and staff at American Farm Bureau,” Duvall said to county Farm Bureau leaders. “Nothing has slipped through the cracks. We’ve taken on every challenge and issue.”

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