Even though the name and numbers have changed dramatically, the founding principles are more important than ever: providing an opportunity to network and share information.
“One of the missions is that there be some sort of educational program with each meeting,” Hornbaker explained. “A lot of times we’ll have a short program, 15-20 minutes. We always eat a really, really nice prime rib dinner. Then we let them talk and network, exchange information. That’s what has made the thing grow.”
The association holds at least three meetings each year, with the spring and fall meetings at member farms. The upcoming annual meeting will be held at the Whitestone Farm in Aldie, Va., on January 26, 2016.
“They’ve been very, very gracious to open up their operation and let us host there. The problem that we’re having is that we’re outgrowing the facility,” Hornbaker said. “We had almost 220 people show up for dinner last year at the annual meeting. It’s really growing, which is a great problem to have.”
Looking ahead, one goal that Hornbaker and the rest of the rural development team have discussed is using the Cattlemen’s Association as a model for other industries.
“If we could get different segments of the rural economy organized, then we could spread relevant information with the touch of a button rather than via word of mouth,” Hornbaker said. “Here’s a model that you can follow in terms of bylaws, meeting schedule, mission statement, educational programing, officers and dues for operational expenses.
“What I’ve really been working on is developing a model that other segments can follow.”
Ideally, once other segments are grouped and organized, finding mutually beneficial opportunities will be much easier.
“How can we partner up some of these segments? Beef and beer? Lamb and wine? It’s a natural combination,” Hornbaker said. “What I would love to see is that our Cattlemen’s Association can start to tie in with the breweries for special events such as burger and beer festivals or chili cook-offs using local beef. That’s what I’m really hoping.
“I think there’s a lot of natural connections we can make that would help multiple industries. It supports local business and Loudoun County. I think that’s part of the next step.”
To join the Blue Ridge Cattlemen’s Association or attend the annual meeting, click here.
Interested in helping organized another rural industry? Email the rural development team or call 703-777-0426.