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Virginia young farmers rank among top national competitors

virginia farm bureau federationVirginia was well represented in the 2021 American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers competitions, which were held Jan. 10-13 during the AFBF Virtual Convention.

Matthew and Shelbie Heldreth of Wythe County took third place in the 2021 AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Achievement Award program; Jonathan and Kelsey Grimes of Wythe County placed fourth in the AFBF Excellence in Agriculture Award program; and Jacob Gilley of Orange County competed in the national Discussion Meet contest.

All competitors won their respective state-level Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers contests in 2020.

The Achievement Award honors young farmers who are successful in production agriculture and provide leadership on and off the farm. The Heldreths manage a 1,200-acre beef cattle operation at Heldreth Farms in Rural Retreat. Matthew serves as chairman of the Wythe County Farm Bureau Young Farmers Committee, and Shelbie serves on the county Farm Bureau’s Women’s Committee.

“There was some very good competition, so we were just excited to be in the top 10 nationally. Coming in third is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement,” Matthew said after the winners were announced.

The couple will receive products from Case IH valued at $3,500, as well as a $2,500 cash prize from American Farm Bureau Insurance Services Inc. and Stanley Black & Decker products valued at $1,850.

The Grimeses took fourth place for the Excellence in Agriculture Award, which recognizes individuals for involvement in agriculture, leadership ability and involvement and participation in Farm Bureau and other organizations.

Jonathan Grimes is an agriculture education teacher and FFA advisor at Fort Chiswell High School in Wythe County, and Kelsey Grimes is a Virginia Cooperative Extension 4-H agent. The Grimeses represent the New River Valley region on the VFBF Young Farmers Committee, and have been VFBF Excellence in Agriculture Award finalists since 2017.

Jonathan has served as VFBF Young Farmers Safety Subcommittee chair, and Kelsey as VFBF Young Farmers Youth Outreach chair since 2019.

“It was our goal to make it to the top 10, and this was an opportunity to represent Virginia well in the top four,” Jonathan said of the award.

The couple will receive a Case IH roll cabinet and top chest and a $500 parts card from Case IH.

Gilley took part in two rounds of the AFBF Discussion Meet, designed to simulate a committee meeting in which discussion and active participation are expected from each contestant.

The Gilley family owns and operates JG Livestock, which offers a variety of products and services. Gilley is vice president of the Orange County Farm Bureau, and he and his wife, Jennifer, serve on the VFBF Young Farmers Committee.

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