Young Farmers embrace difficult conversations in virtual series

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A group of young agriculturalists are hashing out tough topics in monthly virtual meetings.

An online series for young adults in agriculture called “Difficult Conversations in Ag” is a forum for high school- and college-age individuals to dig into the complexity of current—and sometimes controversial—agricultural issues.

Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers host the Zoom discussions the first Tuesday of every month. During the meetings they welcome agriculturalists ages 15 to 23 to share options, gather perspective on different opinions and collaborate on how to positively engage others.

Eastern Shore farmer Kyle Sturgis, VFBF Young Farmers Committee chairman, encourages any young person with an interest in agriculture to join the conversations.

“Currently, it seems like there are so many hot-button topics that pertain to agriculture that sometimes it can seem overwhelming when having a conversation about a certain topic,” he said. “These Zoom meetings are a fun way of not only talking about these topics, but discussing how we can have conversations with people outside the ag communities.”

Kelsey Grimes represents the New River Valley’s Young Farmers with her husband, Jonathan, on the VFBF committee and chairs its youth outreach subcommittee. Grimes recently encouraged participation in the monthly discussions, which she described as a relaxed conversational-style format.

“We’re targeting the age group of 15 to 23 years old so we can have a conversation and not be intimidating,” she said. “The first one in October was a lot of fun. We talked about conventional farming compared to organic—and what does that mean, ‘organic?’”

Grimes said the upcoming November conversation will focus on food insecurity, food deserts and who is affected. A guest speaker, Virginia State University’s Dr. Marcus Comer, a Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist in urban agriculture, will discuss how communities are affected by food deserts, and the realities of food insecurity in Virginia.

The next “Difficult Conversations in Ag” will be held Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. For a Zoom invitation, email ron.saacke@vafb.com. After November’s discussion, the conversation series will resume in the spring.


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