Shenandoah Valley native Matt Lohr has been appointed to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Lohr said he is almost as familiar with public service as he is with farming and resource conservation.
“I’m a fifth-generation farmer; I’ve been around agriculture and conservation my entire life,” Lohr said. “We’ve been active participants in programs that NRCS offers.”
In 2006, Lohr left his family farm for Richmond to serve in the House of Delegates.
“I was in my early 30s and was approached about running for the House of Delegates,” Lohr said. “Political office and pub service have always been very important to me.”
Lohr’s time in the House was brief before climbing the ladder to lead Virginia’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Busy days full of travel and living hours from his home and his farm lead Lohr to step away from the state agency in 2013 and take on an educational role as the Knowledge Center director for Farm Credit of the Virginias.
When his parents decided they were ready to step away from their portion of the farm in Broadway, Lohr said it was time for him to return home. He and his wife bought his parents’ share and he has been working in the field since June 2017.
Lohr’s heart may be on the farm, but he acknowledged it isn’t every day a phone call comes from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, and by extension, the president, for a job offer.
“I wasn’t out looking for a job,” Lohr said. “I was very content being on the farm. I was literally in the sweet corn field one day last summer when the phone rang asking if I’d have an interest in it.”
The offer was too good to refuse and while Lohr wasn’t looking for a job, he said he was glad to accept and go back into public service.
Much like his life at home, Lohr is looking forward to getting straight to work. His first priority, he said, is to get to know the people he is working with and working for.
“I really want to listen and learn as much as I can,” he said. “I do know customer focus is the top priority.
“It will definitely be a transition, going from wearing work boots to a business suit every day,” Lohr continued. “I’m really a farmer at heart. I love being a farmer and being here in rural Virginia. But I also understand the need for public service.”