Watch now: Farmer joins program to learn to advocate for farming | Community


Carolyn R. Wilson | Special for the Herald Courier

MEADOWVIEW, Va. – Wrapping her hands around a hot cup of coffee, Sarah Scyphers steals a minute from her busy morning schedule to stare out her kitchen window, catching the morning sun shining on the hills surrounding her Meadowview home.

It’s another day on the farm for the working mother, who struggles with her husband, Aaron, to get their two children ready for school while she prepares lunches for the school day. Before heading off to work in a nearby town, Scyphers dons his farm boots and heads to the barn to put the heifers out to pasture and feed the dogs.

“I couldn’t function without having something other than my family to feed,” laughed the rancher who, along with her family, operates Springlake Livestock, a registered Hereford herd and a commercial cow-calf operation.

Her farm life is a true agrarian lifestyle, said Scyphers, 39, a third-generation farmer raised on the family farm in Floyd, Virginia.

Not only is Scyphers a positive influence in her home, but she also finds every opportunity to champion agriculture in her community.

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A member of the Farm Bureau since she was in college, Scyphers was among 16 agricultural leaders from across the country to attend the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Women’s Communications Boot Camp last month in Washington, D.C.

The intensive training opportunity is for any female member of the Farm Bureau who wants to learn the skills needed to communicate about agriculture.

Farm Bureau is a non-profit, grassroots agricultural organization whose goal is to make farming more profitable and the community a better place to live and work.

Scyphers studied alongside participants from as far away as Arizona, Michigan and Missouri. “It was very empowering to be in the same room with these women who all have different stories to share,” she said.

“It was really a training camp. The program facilitators asked us tough questions that challenged us and forced us to think about how best to communicate our messages about agriculture with different media. »

The intensive four-day training included practical sessions related to public speaking, working with the media and messaging.

The Boot Camp experience empowers women leaders by giving them the communication skills to share information with elected officials, connecting with influencers at local, state and national levels. They can also participate in social media campaigns that highlight modern agriculture.

Scyphers said attendees learned to be comfortable giving presentations, using talking points and crafting concise messages. “That’s an area that hasn’t been focused on in the past,” she said.

Best of all, the training will be of great benefit in his own work as a program specialist at Farm Credit at Virginias Knowledge Center in Abingdon.

“I can leverage those skills from Boot Camp and help teach local Farm Bureau members and other growers how to share their messages across media platforms, such as TV, radio, and print – and even lawmakers,” Scyphers said.

“Defending agriculture is one of the most important things anyone involved in the industry can do. Not only does it show others in your community what you’re up to, but it sends a positive message and builds personal relationships.

Advocacy for agriculture

During Boot Camp training exercises, Scyphers chose to engage in a broadband infrastructure-focused platform. What she learned reinforced the importance of high-speed internet on farms and how to advocate for better services in her own community.

The topic is particularly important to her as the family struggles with inadequate internet services on the farm, which impacts the family in their daily activities.

“We are what I call ‘an internet wasteland,'” she said. “We don’t have high-speed internet or broadband,” Scyphers said.

Because she and her husband work day shifts, they would like to have calving cameras in the barn to alert them if a cow is having trouble calving. Currently, home services do not support this option.

“Broadband and high-speed internet has become almost as essential as electricity and water,” Scyphers said. “Farmers rely on broadband access to track commodity markets and communicate with their customers and even run businesses from home.”

Early days

Women have always played an important role in agriculture, from physically working in the fields to making decisions at the kitchen table.

The Farm Resource Management Survey (ARMS) reports that more than half of all farms in the United States had at least one female operator in 2019.

Scyphers has been active in farming since he was young, working alongside his father, grandfather, and other family members.

From an early age, she became the guardian of the family sheep.

“Caring for the sheep has been one way I’ve contributed to our family business and been able to own one of our farm businesses. It really made me realize that I wanted to stay in farming in some form.

After earning a degree in Animal and Poultry Science from Virginia Tech, she later earned her Masters in Education and began teaching agriculture. After teaching for two years in North Carolina, she moved to Holston High School in Damascus, where she taught agriculture for a decade before moving to Farm Credit in the Knowledge Center.

In addition to his recent honor, Scyphers won the Virginia Young Farmer Discussion Meet in 2014 and the Virginia Young Farmer Excellence in Agriculture Award in 2016, both awarded by the Virginia Farm Bureau.

Raising a generation

Sharing his passion for the land is something that comes naturally to him.

The couple’s children, Isaac and Hannah, learn from their parents how to be good stewards of the land.

Working alongside their parents, children feed livestock, open gates and tend farm animals.

Among their many tasks, Hannah, 10,’s job is to fill syringes with medicine when her parents vaccinate cattle, and Isaac, 12, helps by using an applicator gun to apply deworming solutions when cattle are isolated in a portal head.

Following in their parents’ footsteps, children participate in local 4-H and FFA organizations, showing off their market steers, registered heifers, and market lambs and hogs.

“To me, I don’t think there’s a better way to live your life and raise your kids than on a farm,” Scyphers said. “Farmers are the lifeline for the rest of the country and the world.

“If you want to see someone who is selfless, look at a farmer. They put the needs of their livestock and crops before themselves every day.

Even on bad days, Scyphers still see the benefits of farming.

“Some days you wonder why you do what you do, but the positives always outweigh the negatives. There are a lot of things in farming that are great, and there are a lot of things in farming that are really tough, but at the end of the day, it’s a way of life.

“To quote a friend, we don’t just grow crops, we educate the next generation of farmers to be passionate about farming.”

Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at [email protected]


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