Bishop gets statewide honors; Farm Bureau Distinguished Service Award presented

Published 12:06 pm Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Cumberland farmer and agricultural producer Donald Bishop has received the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s (VFBF) Distinguished Service to Farm Bureau Award in recognition of his statewide impact on the agricultural and farming industries.

Bishop received the award during the VFBF Annual Convention, held Dec. 1-3 in Norfolk.

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“It was humbling,” Bishop said on receiving the award. “In fact, I had a speech made up [but they] made such a big deal over it, I forgot everything. [I] went blank.”

“I felt very humbled, I tell you right now,” he said. “I’ve never seen it done before and I’ve been with the Farm Bureau for 33 years. It was a shocker.”

Bishop has been farming in Cumberland County for more than 40 years, according to the VFBF. “He and his wife, Jean, raise poultry and also have grown flowers, fruits and vegetables.”

“We call him Mr. Cumberland Farm Bureau,” said VFBF board member Bill Osl, who represents Farm Bureau producer members in Cumberland, “because he’s dedicated literally thousands of volunteer hours to Farm Bureau and the county and the state.”

“I felt that Donald had just such an impact,” said Osl, who nominated Bishop. “His dedication of thousands of hours of personal time over the last four decades have contributed immensely to the well-being of agriculture in Cumberland County as well as at the state and national levels.”

Osl said Bishop has “invested time in the mentoring and development of new farmers and leaders.”

Bishop participated extensively in the legislative process at the state and national levels through the development of policies, fostering working relationships with legislators, testifying before legislative committees and securing regulations and laws beneficial to the community, Osl said.

“He helped to shape and staff the current organizational structure of Virginia Farm Bureau.  Donald [has] lived the values of Virginia Farm Bureau and strove to accomplish its vision and mission in all his endeavors.”

Bishop previously served as the president of the Cumberland Farm Bureau, according to the release.

“The Bishops have conducted field trials with Virginia Tech and Virginia State University and were the first Virginia farmers to ship strawberries out of state. At one time, they planted 74 acres of vegetables,” the release states.

“I know it has,” Bishop said when asked if Farm Bureau has made a big impact on his life. “I’ve talked to four different governors and so many different lawmakers and senators and delegates that the ordinary man wouldn’t get to. …”

He said the future of agriculture in Central Virginia and across the state has a bright future “as long as the farmers don’t go somewhere else to get a job. That’s the problem right now. The lure of money is not good for the younger guys getting out of school here now. But, it will be sustained forever.”

According to Virginia Farm Bureau spokesman Greg Hicks, the recipient for the award is selected by the Virginia Farm Bureau Board of Directors.

The first Distinguished Service Award was given in 1966.

In the fall, the Cumberland Farm Bureau bestowed the Bishops with a lifetime membership award, while Donald was made a lifetime member of the organization’s board of directors.

“There’s a long list of the type of products that they’ve raised on their farm: flowers, fruits [and] vegetables. Many of us have been to their farm to purchase some of their produce and maybe even had the opportunity to see Jean [working] in the greenhouse. …,” Osl said.

Donald started the Southside Growers Association in 1978, “which pooled vegetables from numerous growers and marketed them to grocery stores,” Osl said.