farmbureau-squareU.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-4th; Dr. Charles W. Coale, a retired professor of agricultural economics at Virginia Tech; and retired members of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation board of directors Archie B. Atwell and Edward A. Scharer were honored Dec. 4, 2013 with the 2013 VFBF Distinguished Service Awards.

The awards were given during the VFBF Annual Convention in Richmond, VA. Forbes and Coale were recognized for distinguished service to agriculture, while Atwell and Scharer were recognized for distinguished service to Farm Bureau.

Forbes was singled out for his strong support for farmers and Farm Bureau policy positions in Southeast Virginia.

“From cotton to corn to peanuts, producers in Congressman Forbes’ district can count on him to listen to their concerns and do all he can to solve their problems at the federal level,” said VFBF President Wayne F. Pryor.

While he officially retired more than a decade ago, Coale has continued to serve Virginia’s agriculture community. His early work at Virginia Tech featured research to help boost Virginia’s seafood industry and food safety. Other projects he worked on included agriculture diversification, direct marketing for farmers and agri-tourism. He spent a significant amount of time helping Virginia fruit and vegetable producers gain better access to retail and wholesale markets. He also worked extensively with the farm equipment industry.

“Charlie’s work made a difference for Virginia’s fish and aquaculture industries, as well as for all of our producers who diversified into selling their products directly to the public,” Pryor said. “His work and his life are great examples of how Virginia Cooperative Extension programs can truly solve problems that private industry has neither the time nor the expertise to address.”

A 42-year veteran Farm Bureau leader from Smyth County, Atwell served 15 years on the VFBF board, retiring in 2012. Atwell also taught vocational agriculture at Bland High School and worked with various programs for young farmers. He is a former 4-H club leader in his community and has served on the boards of Southern States Cooperative Inc. and his local Farm Service Agency.

“I served with Archie on the board of directors before I was elected president, and I’m proud to have worked beside him for many years in support of Farm Bureau policies. He brought an important perspective to our councils over the years. Agriculture in Southwest Virginia is significantly different from what it is in other parts of the state, and Archie was never shy about promoting the needs of his members,” Pryor said.

Scharer, a former VFBF vice president, has farmed in Albemarle County for four decades. Before his six years as vice president, he served 15 years on the VFBF board, representing farmers in Central Virginia. He also is a past president and former legislative director of the Albemarle County Farm Bureau.

Sharer made public outreach an important part of his career, holding several public events at his farm over the years. He is a past chairman of the Virginia Pork Industry Board and a past director of the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District and Blue Ridge Farm Credit Bank.

“Ed’s service to Farm Bureau members is a true inspiration,” Pryor said. “He valued conversation over confrontation, but he wasn’t afraid to stand up for his production methods and for modern farm practices when talking with the public. The open houses he held at his farm were pioneering in fostering a positive discussion about proper animal handling and farm conservation methods.”

With 135,000 members in 88 county Farm Bureaus, VFBF is Virginia’s largest farmers’ advocacy group. Farm Bureau is a non-governmental, nonpartisan, voluntary organization committed to protecting Virginia’s farms and ensuring a safe, fresh and locally grown food supply. View more convention news as it becomes available at VaFarmBureau.org/NewsVideo/ConventionNewsroom.aspx.