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Thursday, August 11, 2022
Va. farm community has new advocate at federal level

Va. farm community has new advocate at federal level

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Telicia Berry was a student at the University of Delaware when the world of agriculture reached out to her.

Now, she’ll be returning the favor in a newly-created Virginia position designed to strengthen ties with partners and producers.

“My major was wildlife conservation, and I had kind of a hazy goal of being a wildlife biologist,” Berry recalled. “I have no farmers in my family, but agriculture and growing things gradually started looming larger in what I wanted to do. There was a real lure to it. By the time I was out of school, I had a new direction.”

That direction ultimately led Berry to a five-year tenure in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Hanover Court House field office, followed by two more years as a district conservationist in Amelia. The experience she gained working with farmers, landowners, employees and partners will serve her well in this new role as she seeks to build upon existing relationships while forming new ones.

Berry will serve as the state’s primary point of contact for individuals and groups seeking information on NRCS programs and services as well as those interested in new partnership opportunities. She will work directly with 41 field offices to coordinate agency support for outreach and education programs as well as provide oversight for new equity-partnership agreements designed to break down barriers to participation in farm programs.

Berry, who also holds a master’s degree in environmental sustainability from Wilmington University, hopes to play a vital role in extending services to more Virginia producers. She will work to connect historically underserved growers to available technical and financial assistance to not only help get more conservation on the ground, but also make a lasting impact on natural resource protection in the commonwealth.

“In the field, I quickly learned that many farmers out there still don’t know who we are or exactly what we do,” she said. “I’m determined to change that. We’re here to serve everyone, and people need to know that, too.”

“Partnerships and collaboration are key to our success in addressing the state’s top stewardship challenges,” said Dr. Edwin Martinez Martinez, Virginia’s state conservationist. “We need more boots on the ground to help protect our vital soil and water resources, combat climate change and make fresh, healthy foods more accessible to everyone. Telicia will be a key player in those efforts.”

Individuals and groups seeking to engage more directly with NRCS to protect soil and water resources, prime farm and wetlands and fragile ecosystems can contact Berry at (804) 287-1517 or by e-mail at telicia.berry@usda.gov.

“I’m ready to meet and talk with people to spread the word,” Berry said. “Our agency has great programs and a great message about conservation. I’m looking forward to helping people learn more about us.”

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