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Farm Credit marketing specialist wins Farm Bureau Discussion Meet

Justin Cruise, a marketing specialist for Farm Credit of the Virginias and a part-time farmer in Westmoreland County, took top honors Nov. 28 in Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s annual Young Farmers Discussion Meet. The competition was held at the organization’s 2012 annual convention in Chantilly.

First runner-up was Charles “Chip” Jones, also of Westmoreland County. Other finalists were Jason Pratt of Smyth County and Chris Van Vlack of Loudoun County.

The Discussion Meet is a committee-style discussion on a predetermined agricultural topic. Participants are judged on their ability to build consensus and work toward solutions. This year’s final-round topic was how Farm Bureau should help prepare its members for transferring farm operations from one generation to the next.

The VFBF Young Farmers Committee has actively promoted Farm Link, a program sponsored by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to help connect would-be farmers with retiring farmers who are looking for a successor. Committee members also have been instrumental in the growing success of the Beginning Farmer & Rancher program sponsored by Virginia Tech and Virginia Cooperative Extension. Virginia Farm Bureau Insurance has offered estate planning services to members for decades.

“As a marketer, I sometimes like to think that good marketing is the answer to everything,” Cruise said. “I think getting the word out there (about those programs) is very important. And I think as people see that there have been some successes in this program then they’ll say, ‘This looks like a viable option for my farm and operation.’

“In my job I’m on a lot of farms, and I’ll ask people, ‘Is your family going to get involved in farm transition planning?’ And oftentimes they say, ‘Well, I’m not sure.’ And I see their family, and they have a son or a daughter who’s 17 or 18 years old and it’s time for them to start making that decision.”

The role of Farm Bureau, Cruise said, “is not so much to be a magician and make everyone happy, but to provide a mediator, provide a method with which people can go on to start the process.”

He was awarded a John Deere Gator utility vehicle, courtesy of Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Co. All four finalists in the Discussion Meet also won $500 each from the VFBF. Cruise will compete on the national level in January at the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers Discussion Meet in Nashville, Tenn.

Cruise holds a bachelor’s degree in management from Emory & Henry College and has been a marketing specialist for Farm Credit of the Virginias since 2005. He and his wife, Jessica, enjoy being outdoors and working on her family’s dairy farm in Westmoreland.

With nearly 150,000 members in 88 county Farm Bureaus, VFBF is Virginia’s largest farmers’ advocacy group. Farm Bureau is a non-governmental, nonpartisan, voluntary organization committed to protecting Virginia’s farms and ensuring a safe, fresh and locally grown food supply. View more convention news as it becomes available at VaFarmBureau.org/NewsVideo/ConventionNewsroom.aspx.

Contact Greg Hicks, VFBF vice president of communications, at 804-241-4633.

 

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