New Agriculture Commissioner Appointed
Charles Fishburne talks with the state’s newly appointed Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, farmer and delegate, Matt Lohr.
Delegate Matt Lohr has farming deep in his blood.
Lohr: I live in the house now with my family, in the same house where my father was born in, and the house that my parents live in is over 120 or -30 years old, so it means a lot, it’s certainly tradition and family. So I’m very honored and proud of my roots and I think that’ll play well in this position.
We talked with Lohr last night on the phone at his family farm in Rockingham County.
Fishburne: You know, I think it’s really fascinating that Virginia’s strong suit for 400 years has been farming.
Lohr: Absolutely, and Gov. McDonnell has recognized that agriculture is the number one industry in the Commonwealth, and I’m excited that it’s a priority of his to keep it that way and I look forward to working with Secretary Hamor to make sure that we can work in tandem to help agriculture strengthen in every aspect.
Fishburne: I assume that you sat down with the Governor. What did he tell you he wanted you to do?
Lohr: Well, I think the Governor’s made it very clear that agriculture’s a top priority for him and I’m very happy that he’s chosen to do that. You know, the whole campaign was based upon jobs and especially creating jobs in rural Virginia. What most people don’t realize is that that is so important to agriculture for there are so many of farmers today across the Commonwealth rely on off-farm income. So you have a thriving rural economy where jobs are plentiful then that’s going to help agriculture at the same time, so I know that certainly is a top concern of his. And you know we want to keep agriculture profitable and one of the best ways to do that is by developing new markets both domestically and abroad. It’s giving more opportunities for farmers to sell their products. And at the same time, being able to help farmers in the industry deal with environmental regulations that are coming out of Washington, really helping to make sure we can maintain very faith and cheap food supplies. Certainly that will be a major part of my job as well.
Fishburne: Well, let’s go back to your roots and the fact that you are a multigenerational farmer here. It’s poultry?
Lohr: Well, it’s very diverse. It’s poultry, cattle and in the last probably seven years my role on the farm is I’ve taken over all the crop aspects, which works out well when I’m in Richmond through the wintertime, there’s not a lot growing in the fields. We’ve developed a pretty successful agritourism operation with ____ pumpkins, corn mazes, we do field trips and the like and draw about 15,000 folks to our farm every October.
Fishburne: You know, I just heard that term today. Agritourism, and I have a notion what it is but tell me exactly what it is and is it a nascent sort of industry in Virginia? People just getting started?
Lohr: Agritourism is definitely growing, I would say within the last ten years it’s probably begun to flourish. But, basically, agritourism is being able to have interaction with the public. It’s tourism, but it’s agriculture, vineyards, bed and breakfasts, wineries, pumpkin patches and corn mazes and orchards. It’s being able to invite the public on your farm, educate them, give them a service, let them connect, if you will, to rural living, and people love it. It’s a great way to connect and it’s a great way to help farmers improve the bottom line. I’m very optimistic about the future of agriculture. So many exciting opportunities and biotechnology and new markets and new crops, looking at converting poultry litter to electricity and there’s lot of exciting opportunities out there. So, I see agriculture and production agriculture as having a bright future. I’m very honored, more than anything else, to be able to lead VDACS and excited to work with the Secretary in the challenges ahead. So it’s a great honor and I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work.
Farmer and Delegate, and now the state’s new Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Matt Lohr.
I’m Charles Fishburne, WCVE news.