One valuable takeaway from my conversation with Kirk Jones, this year’s Farm Press Peanut Efficiency Award winner for the Upper Southeast, is just how important mentors are to our success, no matter the chosen field.
Kirk, who farms with his father J.W. Jones, Jr. in Windsor, Va., credits mentors for guiding him and encouraging him as a young farmer. And because he had good mentors, he too works to be a good mentor to youth, particularly in his work as a 4-H volunteer in Isle of Wight County.
Like Kirk, I too had valuable mentors in my career journey. One who comes to mind is John Davies, who served as director of communications for the Cotton Board, when I was just beginning my career. I had the good fortune to work for John at the Cotton Board. John was a great motivator and teacher, a true mentor in every sense of the word. I too have strived to mentor others throughout my career. In many ways, mentoring is the most important part of the job description.
For Kirk, the late Cecil Ray Byrum, a cotton, grain and peanut farmer in Isle of Wight County and a much-respected industry leader, was a valuable mentor. Cecil Byrum lost his life to cancer at age 61 on Feb. 13. “Cecil left us way too soon, but he is in a better place. He taught me so much. He taught me don’t ever be afraid to ask for advice and don’t ever be afraid to fail because failing is where you learn something,” Kirk says.
Kirk says his role as a mentor in youth agriculture programs in Isle of Wight County where he serves on the Extension Livestock Steering Committee and 4-H chairman for the Isle of Wight County Fair is important to him. Showing livestock was a vital part of Kirk’s growing up, and he strives to guide youth who share the passion.
It is safe to say many of these young people Kirk is mentoring will remember his support and encouragement as they begin their careers, no matter their chosen field. And like Kirk, we all known that if we were blessed to have a mentor early on, we need to strive to be a mentor too