RICHMOND, Va. — Kyle Sturgis of Northampton County was named this year’s Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers Excellence in Agriculture Award winner. He was recognized July 31 during the VFBF Young Farmers Summer Expo in Fauquier County.
The Excellence in Agriculture Award recognizes individuals for involvement in agriculture, leadership ability, and involvement and participation in Farm Bureau and other organizations.
Sturgis is a fifth-generation farmer and manager of Shore Breeze Farms in Cape Charles, where he oversees the hydroponic greenhouse facility, field crop operations and the farm market. The family also farms soybeans, corn, sorghum, wheat and vegetables through Tri-S Farms Inc., and clams and oysters for C&S Seafood.
Prior to the global pandemic, Shore Breeze was filling orders for restaurants, schools, farmers markets and other retailers.
“We had to reinvent the wheel because a lot of our sales were to restaurants,” Sturgis recalled.
In his presentation to judges, Sturgis explained how the farm reached the public directly through an online store where customers could purchase salad kits that include ingredients like croutons, cucumbers, radishes and tomatoes.
Because their agritourism and U-pick operations we limited by the pandemic last year, the family supplied Kiptopeke and Occohannock elementary schools with donated pumpkins and created a pick-your-own “patch” in the schools’ hallways.
The new ventures were met with positive community feedback, Sturgis said.
He also talked about the newly launched Virginia’s Young Farmers Podcast, in which he and fellow VFBF Young Farmer Austin McNett discuss agriculture and farming from their perspectives, and welcome submissions on topics ranging from weather to finances and family.
Sturgis is past chair of the VFBF Young Farmers Committee and current chair of the VFBF Aquaculture Advisory Committee, and he serves on the organization’s legislative and national affairs committees. He is one of seven delegates from Virginia who joined the nation’s farmers in shaping policies important to the industry at the 2021 American Farm Bureau Federation Virtual Convention. He also has competed in past VFBF Young Farmers Discussion Meets.
He is an area director for the Virginia Soybean Association, and holds a director seat for the Eastern Shore Soil and Water Conservation District.
Sturgis earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture and environmental science from Ferrum College.
As Excellence in Agriculture Award winner, Sturgis will receive a Kubota utility vehicle courtesy of Virginia Farm Bureau Insurance Services, and a travel package to the 2021 AFBF Annual Convention in Atlanta in January. At that event he will compete for the AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Excellence in Agriculture Award.
Rachel Henley of Goochland County was runner-up for the VFBF award and will receive $500 and a travel package to the AFBF convention. Other finalists were Ivan and Casey Davis of Buckingham County and Hunter Johnson of Pittsylvania County. Each finalist will receive $500 courtesy of the VFBF Young Farmers Committee.
–Virginia Farm Bureau