Good news amidst bad as ag makes history

Most of the big news today is bad news. The BP oil spill fiasco is environmentally and economically decimating the Gulf Coast, IEDs continue killing our troops in Afghanistan, economic recovery remains slow and seemingly on and on the bad news goes.

Amidst all the news of what is bad in the world came an e-mail this week that brightened my day and, I believe, bodes well for agriculture’s future.

The story goes back a bit. Last year I received an e-mail from Annina, a middle school student in Virginia, asking for help in learning more about cotton gins. At the time I was working with Suffolk, Va. cotton grower Mike Griffin as part of his selection as the 2010 High Cotton Award winner.

I don’t usually forward e-mails soliciting help, but the honesty and sincerity of this request seemed to merit an exception. Annina and Mike struck up a friendship. She visited his farm and he spoke at her school.

Annina, whose family has no background in agriculture, learned some good things about agriculture as did her classmates. Mike and I agreed, it was time well spent, because who knows Annina may grow up to be a policy-making politician—even the president some day.

Time well spent got a good bit better on June 8, when Annina was named the 2010 winner of the prestigious Anne R. Worrell Award for historical research by the Virginia Historical Society for her paper, “The Cotton Gin: The Innovation That Changed Agriculture.” The award is presented annually to deserving high school students—Annina is the first middle school student to win the award.

Anne R. Worrell is a former newspaper executive and noted community leader with a strong interest in historic preservation. She and her late husband, Gene, formerly owned Bristol Newspapers, Inc., Worrell Investment Company, and the Worrell Land and Cattle Company. The two also established the Genan Foundation in 1986, and Mrs. Worrell serves as its president. She is also the director of Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest Foundation and the honorary vice chairman of the Virginia Historical Society.

Annina will be presented the award at the Society’s summer meeting in July. So, the good news about agriculture will now spread to very influential Virginia and Washington D.C. members of one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious historical organizations.

After receiving notification of winning the award, Annina didn’t tout her achievement to all her friends or sit down and try to figure out how to spend the cash that comes with the award. Instead, she sat at her computer and wrote thank you notes to Mike, me and probably others for our miniscule role in helping her win the award.

The other good news amidst all the bad we see and hear every day is that there are school kids, like the smart, thoughtful little girl with the pretty name in Virginia, in whose hands our country will one day soon rest. If Annina is typical of tomorrow’s leaders, the U.S.A. will be OK.

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