Everetts honored by Virginia Farm Bureau

Published 4:43 pm Friday, January 5, 2024

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M.L. and Jeannette Everett are the first couple ever recognized with the Distinguished Service to Virginia Farm Bureau Award, and this honor was announced Nov. 30 at the organization’s 2023 Annual Convention in Virginia Beach.

A Virginia Farm Bureau Federation news release stated that the Everetts, who are peanut and cotton growers, hail from Southampton County, where they have built a legacy as public servants and advocates for agriculture. Longtime friends and colleagues say the Everetts lead by example, are true to their word, sustain an immaculate farm operation and are committed to conservation practices.

The Distinguished Service to Virginia Farm Bureau Award was initiated in 1966, established to honor those who have demonstrated exceptional service to advancing statewide agriculture and the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

“I’ll tell you, it was certainly a surprise at our convention to be honored with that award and especially to be honored as a couple,” M.L. Everett Jr. told The Tidewater News. “Jeannette and I have, throughout our life, worked as a team in each of our endeavors, and with Virginia Farm Bureau, it hasn’t been any different.”

Jeannette noted that she, too, was surprised by the unprecedented honor.

“I just was humbled and honored and shocked that they thought that much of both of us to recognize us in that way,” she said.

M.L. said, “Certainly the award, to be in the list of honorees from the past, that in itself is a great honor,” and Jeannette agreed.

The VFBF news release noted that the Everetts have served in a leadership capacity on several Farm Bureau committees and boards.

Jeannette shared her talents with the VFBF Women’s Leadership Committee — both statewide and on the county level.

“She’s known as a quiet worker, seeing projects through to the end,” said Faye Hundley, VFBF Women’s Leadership Committee chair.

Jeannette’s projects included assisting local fire departments and rescue squads in mapping 911 addresses for every farm in Southampton County. 

In her career, she served as deputy of the Southampton commissioner of the revenue and now chairs the Community Electric Cooperative Board of Directors. She also is an outspoken breast cancer survivor and awareness advocate.

M.L. sits on the Southampton County Farm Bureau board and the Farm Bureau State Board of Directors, now in his sixth term, serving farmers in Charles City, Dinwiddie, Greensville, James City, New Kent, Prince George, Southampton, Surry, Sussex and York counties. It’s a distinction he shares with his late father, as both held a state Farm Bureau board and county Farm Bureau president seat. 

“I actually went on the state board, after my father retired because of health reasons, and tried to continue on with his legacy of trying to promote agriculture and educate people about it,” M.L. said. “Virginia Farm Bureau being the largest farm organization in Virginia was very important to me and Jeannette to take a part (in) and do as much as we could to be advocates of agriculture.”

Jeannette said, “Both of us worked really, really hard with Farm Bureau for a lot of years — and still will. It’s just a great organization that we’re very passionate about and what it does for agriculture.”

M.L. said, “I would say — and I’ve made this comment many, many times — that with my service to Virginia Farm Bureau, I don’t feel like it’s anywhere in the state of Virginia that I could travel and (there) not be a Farm Bureau member just around the curb, so it’s very heart-warming, and it just gives you a sense of friendships and just those relationships through Virginia Farm Bureau that each of us have developed over the years.”

The VFBF release noted that M.L. currently serves on the boards of the Virginia Peanut Growers Marketing Association and the Chowan Basin Soil and Water Conservation District. He previously served on the boards of the Virginia Peanut Growers Association and Virginia Cotton Growers Association. He currently chairs the VFBF Peanut Advisory and Cotton Advisory committees and holds a seat on the Countryway Insurance Company Board of Directors.

Additionally, he is president of the State Fair of Virginia Youth Development Board and serves on the oversight committee for The Meadow Event Park. The Everetts are supportive of the fair’s youth fundraisers, including Black Tie & Boots and the Sale of Champions, contributing auction item donations and volunteering at the fair.

To keep The Meadow Event Park centered on Virginia’s agricultural traditions, M.L. “envisioned the livestock pavilion to be a multi-use facility and worked with the oversight committee to keep The Meadow booked with year-round events,” said Thomas Graves, a VFBF board director.

In addition to church leadership and Masonic activities, the Everetts support Special Olympics Virginia activities in their area, including the annual Polar Plunge at Virginia Beach.

VFBF officials stated, “This hardworking, God-fearing couple still refer to each other as ‘best friends’ after 46 years of marriage. They have two sons and five grandchildren.” 

When M.L. and Jeannette were presented with the Distinguished Service award, they were able to share the moment with family.

“It was special that both of our sons and daughters-in-law could be there for that event, and that just meant the world to us as well,” Jeannette said.

The VFBF news release concluded by noting that with almost 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 supporting Virginia’s agriculture industry.