In January, Chris Van Vlack, of the Loudoun Soil and Water Conservation District, won a national contest during the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention in Florida. Today, he received the payoff—a custom-ordered Buick Verano.
Under the partnership between the Farm Bureau and General Motors, the winner of the Discussion Meet program contest—in which participants are evaluated on an exchange of ideas and information on a pre-determined topic—typically wins a shiny pickup.
Van Vlack already has one of those. It’s not a new one, but the 10-year-old model is relatively new to him. So GM let him pick out something else in the price range.
After weeks of test drives and research, he settled on a black, six-speed Verano turbo that was custom ordered from the plant. However, the one that arrived in Leesburg was outfitted with an automatic transmission and the company said there were no plans to build more with manual gearboxes. The crew at Star Buick in Leesburg went to work and found a Verano meeting Van Vlack’s preferences sitting in a dealer lot in New Jersey.
On Thursday, Van Vlack was surrounded by representatives of the state and county Farm Bureaus as the car keys were formally presented.
Van Vlack credited his experience working with the Farm Bureau, the Soil and Water Conservation District and the county’s rural economic development program, and his interactions with contributing to his winning the state and national Discussion Meet contests.
“Everybody’s got a little part of this Buick here,” Van Vlack said.
Although it is his first new car, Van Vlack doesn’t expect to drive it ever day; it joins a garage stable that includes an AMC Eagle, a classic MG D-type and a vintage Land Rover.
Van Vlack competed in the program for six years before winning the championship. Now, local Farm Bureau leaders are searching for the next young farmer to take up the challenge.