By Aila Boyd
The Botetourt County Young Farmers relaunched earlier this year with the aim of promoting agriculture and supporting farmers between the ages of 18 and 40.
The group is affiliated with the Botetourt County Farm Bureau.
Courtney Henderson, who operates a dairy farm, serves as the co-chair. After graduating from Lord Botetourt High School in 2014, Henderson went on to study at Virginia Tech, where she graduated from in 2018.
While in FFA as a student in middle school and high school, Henderson said that she would regularly see “Young Farmers” shirts at conferences, but didn’t know what the group actually was. Later, she joined the Collegiate Young Farmers at Virginia Tech group.
Upon returning to Botetourt County following her graduation from college, Henderson said that she was trying to gather a like-minded group of individuals and was approached by the Botetourt County Farm Bureau Women’s Committee to see whether or not she was interested in helping to relaunch the Botetourt County group.
Henderson said that the group was around back when her father was a young man and that a relaunch was attempted in 2015; however, the effort wasn’t sustained. She explained that the original group ended because most of the members aged out and that there wasn’t a generation behind them willing to keep it going.
“My goal is to get everyone involved. I want everyone to be able to promote agriculture in their own ways. This should be a safe place where people can be themselves so that they can get out any frustration they have,” Henderson said. “We’re bridging the gap between the older generation and the younger generation by showing the older generations that the younger generation is here and is willing to do what they have done.”
Henderson added that one of the challenges that the group faces is that there just aren’t that many young farmers in the county to begin with. “It’s hard because the old ways aren’t always the best ways. Trying to persuade people that the newer ways work better than the older ways doesn’t always work,” she said.
Recently, the group built a chicken coup for Central Academy Middle School.
Upcoming activities include the restoration of book barns for all of the elementary schools throughout the county, a book drive to restock the book barns, a livestock tent at the Botetourt County Fair, participation in the Botetourt County Farmers Market, and participation in the Beaver Dam Farm Sunflower Festival. The group is also developing a farm safety program to present to the two county middle schools in the fall.
Currently, the group has 18 active members. Ideally, Henderson said, over the coming months, the number of members will grow to 40 or 50. She said she anticipates an uptick in membership over the summer as people return home from college.
Monthly meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. A yearly membership costs $40 and is payable through the Botetourt County Farm Bureau.
Those interested in joining should contact Henderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.