Agriculture Commissioner Visits Campus
Virginia Agriculture Commissioner Visits Ferrum College
Matt Lohr tells students there is a bright future in agriculture.
Ferrum, Va. (November 15, 2010) – Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Matt Lohr told students at Ferrum College that “the sky is the limit” for the future of agriculture in Virginia. Lohr made the comments during a tour of campus on Friday, November 12. “My advice to students is that you have to be creative. You have to think outside the box and envision the possibilities,” he said during a keynote address to more than 100 people in the Blue Ridge Mountain room.
Lohr used his own situation as an example. He told the crowd that he was a fifth generation farmer, and that “every generation had done it differently.” Lohr’s farm is in a densely populated section of northern Virginia so he turned to what he called “agritourism,” offering hayrides, pumpkin picking and a corn maze in the month of October.
Looking to the future, Lohr told the crowd of mostly agricultural students to keep an eye on opportunities in energy production through farming. He also predicted a continuation of the trend toward selling directly to consumers, “… be it in agribusiness or other niche markets.”
The Commissioner was on campus from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., touring the Titmus Farm Center and interacting with students. He attended classes, and walked through the dining hall and kitchen. He applauded Ferrum because 30 percent of the food served comes from local suppliers. He also praised Ferrum for it’s role in educating the next generation of farmers.
“I think a school like Ferrum serves a population of people who don’t want to go to a larger university. The smaller environment, the student to teacher ratio is better. I like the farm on campus – all of it. Ferrum is a big piece of the puzzle,” he said.
The timing of Lohr’s visit worked out well, as Ferrum hosted the 2010 Young Farmers Discussion Meet in which students from agricultural programs all over the state gathered to compete in an open discussion format on agricultural issues of the day. Many of the students from other campuses were in the audience for Lohr’s address.
Although the number of farms has been shrinking in Virginia for years, Lohr reminded the students that the State’s 47,000 farms and related industries account for 400,000 jobs in Virginia and that farming was a $55 billion business – by far the largest in the state. He also noted that the average age of farmers in Virginia is 58, meaning that the timing is right for a new generation of young farmers to fill the void.
Lohr predicted that half of all farmland in Virginia would change hands over the next 15 years, leaving “… lots of opportunity for today’s students.”
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