Excellence in Agriculture: Recognizing farming heritage, a Virginia Beach industry and those who help it survive

Those who have been honored with the Excellence in Agriculture award gather each year during the annual Virginia Beach Excellence in Agriculture Awards for a group photograph. This is the image captured Thursday, March 22, at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. [Craig McClure/City of Virginia Beach]

OCEANFRONT — Call it a green carpet event.

The paparazzi may not have been swarming around the Virginia Beach Convention Center on Thursday, March 22, but for the city’s agriculture community, the event going on within its walls was their equivalent of the Oscars.

The Virginia Beach Excellence in Agriculture banquet has been a tradition since 1966, when Mr. W. Clark Fleming became the first recipient of the Excellence in Agriculture award. The proceedings have expanded over the years to include the Friend of Agriculture award as well as a Special Recipient award. 

This year’s banquet recognized David Trimmer, the director of the city agriculture department, for the 2017 Virginia Beach Excellence in Agriculture award. One of his former employees, Rebecca Salmons, received the 2017 Special Recipient award. Longtime Virginia Farm Bureau agent Glenn Felthousen received the 2017 Friend of Agriculture award.

Mayor Will Sessoms presented a formal proclamation declaring Trimmer’s status as the 2017 Virginia Beach Excellence in Agriculture award recipient.

“I encourage all citizens and civic organizations to extend their gratitude and best wishes to David Edward Trimmer and to recognize the contributions he has made to the quality of life in Virginia Beach,” Sessoms said. 

Following Sessoms’ proclamation and an invocation by the Rev. David Ryu of Charity United Methodist Church in Pungo, the assembled masses made their way to the buffet table in an orderly fashion. Then Blackwater farmer Don Horsley, a recent inductee into the Virginia Livestock Hall of Fame, introduced the banquet’s sponsors.

From there, state Del. Barry Knight, R-81st District, welcomed some of the special guests in the room, making particular note of Bettina Ring, the recently-appointed new Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry for Virginia, who took the stage to say a few words.

During her brief remarks, Ring issued a reminder of the importance of teamwork within the agriculture community, noting, “It takes everyone working together at the local, state and the federal level, as well as our private sector partners and non-profit partners.” Much of her time, however, was spent praising the work done by one of her predecessors, Todd Haymore, who took the stage shortly thereafter to fulfill his duties as the evening’s keynote speaker.

Haymore focused on the positive changes that have taken place within the agricultural community over the years, but before doing so, he had some fun at his own expense, admitting that Knight had invited him to speak at the banquet while Haymore was still Virginia’s secretary of commerce and trade, but just before he’d publicly announced his forthcoming departure from the position.

“I said, ‘Barry, you don’t want me to come down and speak. I’m gonna be a has-been.’ He said, ‘Yeah, well, we take has-beens, used-to-bes, and all that. Come on down and talk to us.’” Haymore said. “This is my first speech after being a has-been, so bless your heart.”

Before his time as commerce secretary, Haymore served as agriculture and forestry secretary under two administrations and as agriculture and consumer services commissioner under a third.

Rebecca Salmons, Special Recipient

From there, it was on to the awards, starting with the 2017 Special Recipient Award. Trimmer introduced Salmons, praising her for helping him in his transition into the department and recalling how he was assured “by many of you in this room” how Salmons would keep him on course and give him the guidance he needed. 

“She’s been a best friend,” Trimmer said. “She has been a guiding light. Life lessons are what she showed me, and she knows everybody.” 

In accepting her award, Salmons prefaced the expression of her gratitude by turning the tables on Trimmer and relating an anecdote about her former boss. “He shared the other day that, when he got the director position, it was very special, and he and his family celebrate that day every year. I love that.” 

Glenn Felthousen, Friend of Agriculture

Robert Vaughan, board president of Virginia Beach Farm Bureau, presented Felthousen with his award, and the newly-minted Friend of Agriculture recipient offered an emotional and reflective speech filled with fond memories dating back to his beginnings with the organization. 

“My knowledge of farming was minimal, and you folks educated me,” Felthousen said. “Not easily. In the beginning, it was right tough. I’ll be the first to admit, being a city boy coming from the north end of the beach, it was scary. Y’all are a tight-knit community.”

David Trimmer, Excellence in Agriculture

Before presenting the Excellence in Agriculture award, Diane Horsley, a farmer who serves as chairperson of the Virginia Beach Agriculture Advisory Commission, read a series of glowing comments that individuals throughout the community had made about Trimmer.

After he offered his thanks, he introduced his wife, Maggie, who thanked the agricultural community for embracing her husband and accepting them into their family.

During a post-banquet interview, Trimmer was grinning from ear to ear. 

“Oh, man, it was embarrassing,” Trimmer said of the praise. “But it was such a tremendous honor. And it’s just good to see the people from the community come out for this, because it gives us a chance to talk to each other. I mean, otherwise, when do we get together? Weddings and funerals. If we can get together for a great evening like this, then why wouldn’t we?”

© 2018 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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