Title: director of sustainability and external relations at the Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative, which is owned and operated by nearly 1,500 dairy farm families from Pennsylvania to Georgia.
Born: December 1981 in Leesburg
Education: bachelor of science in agriculture and applied economics, Virginia Tech, 2004; master’s of public administration, Virginia Tech, 2006
Career: Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, assistant director of governmental relations, 2006-16; Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative, manager of animal care and sustainability, 2016; assistant secretary of Agriculture & Forestry, Commonwealth of Virginia, 2018; Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative, director of sustainability and external relations, 2019
What part of the metro area do you live?: In Amelia County with my husband and two children on our family farm.
Best business decision: “Taking a risk and getting outside of my comfort zone. I worked in a role for 10 years and was very comfortable, but there wasn’t any room for me to grow at that company. Leaving the position and taking on a new role in the field of sustainability has given me the opportunity to grow professionally and make a larger impact on a greater scale.”
Worst business decision: “In general, being afraid to speak up and ask for what I want — this has improved with experience.”
Mistake you learned the most from: “Communication is so important — people want to feel valued and included. It is critical that you ensure everyone is on the same page to move a project forward and get support from a team.”
What is the biggest challenge/opportunity in the next two to five years: “Agriculture has a great opportunity to engage with our consumers and tell our stories of sustainability and family farms. Less than 2 percent of the population raises the food and substance for the entire country. Every day farmers have to raise more food with less resources in a responsible way — it’s the story of sustainability and perseverance that needs to be told. We have an opportunity in agriculture to take back the narrative of how food is produced and how animals are raised.”
First job after college: “Growing up, I always worked on my family’s dairy farm — starting at about 9 years old, I fed calves and helped on the farm. My first job after graduate school was as a legislative specialist at Virginia Farm Bureau.”
If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently: “Nothing. I have learned from all of my experiences and have enjoyed the path my career has gone.”
Movie or book that inspired you the most, and why?: “Favorite movie: ‘Gone with the Wind.’ Favorite book: I just finished reading ‘Girl, Wash Your Face,’ by Rachel Hollis. A hilarious book with real encouragement and a perfect read for any working mom.”
Favorite/least favorite subject in school: Favorite: history; least favorite: foreign language — “as much as I wanted to learn German, it just wasn’t going happen.”