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Politics, Virginia

First Lady Suzanne Youngkin speaks at Virginia FFA convention

Sherri Blevins, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors; Cyril Clarke, executive vice president and provost; Andrew Seibel, national FFA president and Virginia Tech student; First Lady of Virginia Suzanne Youngkin; Matt Lohr, secretary of agriculture and forestry; Mike Gutter, director of Virginia Cooperative Extension; and Alan Grant, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Photo by Tim Skiles for Virginia Tech.

First Lady of Virginia Suzanne Youngkin delivered the keynote address at the 2023 Virginia FFA convention on June 22.

The event marked the first time a First Lady of Virginia addressed the convention in Burruss Hall on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus.

“Today is the perfect example of strengthening the spirit of Virginia, and we are so proud of the work you endeavor to do,” Youngkin said. Virginia is “the nation’s leader in vertical farming, has premier veterinary training technologies, and are dutiful stewards of our precious land.”

Agriculture is the largest private industry in Virginia and has an economic impact of $82.3 billion annually. When agriculture is combined with forestry, the two industries contribute $105 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy and provide more than 490,000 jobs, according to a recent study by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. Virginia Tech, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, its Agricultural Research and Extension Centers, and Virginia Cooperative Extension offices support Virginia’s agriculture and forestry industries.

Virginia Tech works in partnership with federal, state and local government stakeholders and industry to meet evolving agricultural needs in Virginia as well as throughout the country and around the world. Youngkin encouraged Virginia FFA members to “engage in the real world with real people” by looking away from digital screens.

“Take real risks and experience the sweet stuff in life,” she said. “By simply being here today and being a part of FFA, you are well on your way to contributing to Virginia’s agriculture industry.”

Later in the evening, Andrew Seibel, president of the National FFA organization and a student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, echoed what Youngkin said.

“You can’t take opportunities for granted,” he said. “Don’t waste them.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.