By Aila Boyd firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Megan Seibel was recently recognized as the 2019 Outstanding Woman in Agriculture by the Virginia Farm Bureau Women’s Program in Bristol. This is the first year that the honor has been given.
“I received a call from the state chairwoman and she notified me that I had been selected for it,” Seibel said, adding that she wasn’t even aware of the honor beforehand. “It was a pretty nice honor to receive because there are some really amazing women in this industry throughout the state.”
Seibel and her family operate a beef cattle and commercial wine grape farm in Bonsack.
Although it has been a large part of her life for 22 years now, Seibel explained that she didn’t always plan on going into agriculture.
She grew up in a military family in Northern Virginia and originally planned on pursuing nursing. Then, she married her husband, Andy, who comes from a farming background.
She graduated from James Madison University in 1996 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, before studying at Virginia Tech where she obtained a Master’s Degree in Career and Technical Education in 2007 and a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Extension Education in 2012.
She currently works as an Extension specialist with Virginia Cooperative Extension in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech where she serves as inaugural director of the Virginia Leaders Obtaining Results Program, associate director of the Center for Cooperative Problem Solving, and is the lead specialist for Facilitation and Strategic Planning trainings for Virginia Cooperative Extension and its stakeholders.
The program is an intensive two-year fellowship that works with agribusiness leaders to develop industry ambassadors through professional development and experience-based sessions.
While Terry McAuliffe was governor, she was tapped to serve in his administration as assistant secretary of agriculture and forestry, then as deputy secretary of agriculture and forestry for 18 months.
“The secretary at the time was a graduate of the leadership program that I run at Virginia Tech,” Seibel said. “When he was given the opportunity to round out his office, he wanted to focus more on leadership and capacity building in rural areas, so they brought me on to be part of the team.”
After serving in McAuliffe’s administration, she returned from administrative leave and resumed her duties at Virginia Tech.
An active Farm Bureau member, Seibel has served on the Roanoke County Farm Bureau Board of Directors for 12 years. She is currently serving her third term as president.
She was recognized as America’s Farmers Southeast Region Farm Mom of the Year in 2015. Additionally, Seibel and her husband were presented with the Warren Beech Outstanding Service Award in 2012.
“The way I live my life is believing that I’m here for some purpose, so I try to conduct myself in a way that leaves life open to opportunities that present themselves,” she said. “With each new opportunity, I just work my hardest and try to do the best that I can in that moment so that I’m leaving it better than I found it. I hope by doing that, it’s an example for others as they continue to go through their lives.”
Seibel explained that managing a large farm can be difficult because of her and her husband’s work obligations. He also works at Virginia Tech.
“It’s a constant balancing act,” she said. “We run in a lot of different directions, so we just do what we can.”
Luckily, she said, people are willing to pitch in and lighten the load. In addition to the one full-time employee who works on the farm, her mother-in-law and three children assist in the running of the farm.
Seibel’s oldest daughter served as the Virginia FFA president in 2018 and is currently studying nursing at James Madison University. Her middle daughter currently serves as the Virginia FFA vice president and will be studying biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech in the near future. Her son, who is the youngest, has yet to decide whether or not he will pursue a career in agriculture.
“I want young women to understand that there are so many different ways to be involved with the ag industry from business to science to production,” Seibel said. “There’s something that will fit with everyone. It’s not just raising animals and crops, although it’s a huge part of it because of our obligation to feed people.”