Zippy Duvall is a travelin’ man. Before he was elected the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation in January 2016, he’d visited nearly three dozen states campaigning for the post, and promised that if elected he’d put boots on the ground in all 50 states.
Duvall, who’s legal name is Vincent Mearl — the Zippy came about because, as a C-section baby, he left the hospital with the nickname Zipper, his parents later saw a TV show with a character named Zippy, and Zippy he’s been ever since — is making good on that promise.
He recently spent the better part of a week in Mississippi, visiting county Farm Bureau chapters, row crop/livestock/poultry/forestry operations, a cotton gin, research facilities at Stoneville, and attending the big Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation summer commodity conference at Mississippi State University.
The consummate people person who doesn’t meet a stranger, Duvall still has his farm in Georgia: “400 mama cows, four poultry houses, and some hay ground.” But he speaks fondly still of his dairying days. “I loved the dairy business,” he told the MSU crowd. “It’s a hard way to make a living — but a wonderful way to raise a family.”
Farm families, he believes, are the bedrock of America. “They are the grassroots power and strength of this organization. Farm people are just good folks; they’re just so passionate about their issues. I love talking with them and hearing their stories, learning about their unique concerns. Whether I’m at USDA, or in Congress, or taking a call from an official of the European Union with questions about U.S. agriculture, or meeting with President Trump, as I have twice already, I can speak knowledgeably about the concerns of the men, women, and young folks who make up our country’s agriculture.
“I go back home to the farm as often as I can," says Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“If you have a story, good or bad, I want to hear from you,” he told the group. “Call me or e-mail me, let me know about it. I promise you, I’ll listen to or read your story. I’m not doing all this traveling around the country just to sightsee — it’s people’s stories I’m interested in. It’s people’s stories that touch hearts, and can change minds.”
Despite the demands of his job as leader of the nation’s largest farm organization, Duvall says, “I go back home to the farm as often as I can, and my wife tells me about the problems of labor not showing up, or the chicken company saying you’ve got to do this or that.
“Reality is at home on the farm, with the things you face every day. All of our farm families are important to their communities, and to America. And while I know I’ve got to represent the big guys, too, you can write it down that Zippy’s not ever going to forget the small farmers.”