If you are in agriculture, it isn’t any surprise when we are told that the decline in this industry is due to children leaving the operation. In some regards not shocking, but when an operation has met the point of succession and moving forward what do you do? Luckily, the life of agriculture is far from over, if not just really beginning. With statistical reports showing that our world population will grow to over 11 billion, yes billion, by the end of the century this lets the folks in agriculture know that there is job security, but at a price. What is this price? Well stay tuned and I’ll let you know.
Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting young agricultural producers from southeast Wyoming in Wheatland, Wyoming for a Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers informational meeting. This program, separate from Farm Bureau Insurance, helps young producers ages 18-35 to become an overall better advocate for agriculture. The Farm Bureau Federation is a grass-roots organization that has been around for 90 years creating changes locally and nationally. Any member who wants to make their voice heard can do so, even at the national level face-to-face with political leaders.
Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee Vice Chair, Heather Hamilton, spoke directly about her experience with the federation. Her initial thoughts about the federation have been surpassed greatly and she told us how happy she is that she got into the program.
” I’ve always believed strongly in what the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation(WyFB) does on behalf of our states agriculture industry, but was uncertain I had the time to be directly involved. When Kerin Clark asked me about running for the committee two years ago, I initially hesitated. At the time I was ranching fulltime in addition to working as a freelance agriculture journalist and photographer, and my plate was very full without adding a board position to the mix. But, she eventually convinced me to run, and I am so glad I did as my involvement has been the most rewarding of any organization I’ve been involved in.”
Not very many opportunities present themselves as the perfect way to tell the story of agriculture, but the Young Farmers & Ranchers program creates a change that starts at the grass-roots level from people such as you and I. Members can implement policies at the county level, and if passed, move up the line to regional, state, and eventually national if it is agreed upon by a whole. There are several components that the federation offers to insure its members are prepared and educated to reach a large percentage of the population who is unfamiliar with agriculture.
1. Legislature at the county, state and national levels
2. Educational conferences that bring a variety of speakers that are worth leaving the farm or ranch for!
3. Competitive events ranging from a Discussion Meet to a Young Farmers and Ranchers Meet. Competitors, in groups of four, can choose a topic from five and give about a thirty minute discussion about the chosen topic.
4. Leadership development by strengthening communications, relations, understanding and networking at all levels (County, State and National).
5. Networking with agricultural producers “your age.” Has shown an increase in young, viable people moving back to the operations.
6. Joining a committee to not only improve yourself but the lives of others through community service and donating your time to legislative acts and children as you read and educate them in the classroom.
Heather also spoke to the group about joining committees that will give you a chance to not only better yourself, but also create a stronger voice for agriculture.
“The Young Farmer and Rancher Committee provides a hands-on opportunity to educate people about agriculture, expand your own personal knowledge of our industry and the issues facing it, and play an active role in working toward what is right for agriculture on the political front, all without having to restructure your entire schedule. It does take time, as any worthwhile endeavor does, but since everyone on the committee works in the agriculture industry, there is a common thread of understanding when it comes to operational responsibilities and board responsibilities.
Initially I wasn’t sure what to expect as a committee member. Every organization and board has virtually the same pamphlet stating why they should be your first choice when it comes to agriculture involvement and making a difference. But, I quickly realized that the YF&R Committee surpassed everything I had read. During my two years on the committee I have read to
close to 1,000 Wyoming elementary school students through the committee’s Ag Books for Kids Program. I’ve told them about my lifestyle, read to them about beef production and seed growth, answered their questions and returned the next year
to have them remember me and what I taught them the year before. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. and meet top American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) lobbyists, then lobby as a producer on the hill and in various departments. I’ve also traveled across the U.S. for multiple national YF&R meetings and contests and have met producers from all over our country, learned about their operations and broadened my scope of understanding on numerous agriculture issues. I’ve lobbied at the state level, volunteered time toward feeding the less fortunate, judged coloring contests and made
Perhaps most importantly is that I’ve had a lot of fun while fighting to preserve and protect my way of life. I believe education has to be an active part of our occupation as farmers and ranchers today, but that the education time commitment cannot overshadow physically making a living. The YF&R program has provided me the perfect opportunity to contribute to Farm Bureau’s voice, which is the largest voice for farming and ranching in the country, in ways I enjoy and that fit within my schedule. It’s a rare opportunity to find that fit, and I am so grateful I have had the chance to do so.”
What is the cost? Well, to be frank, it isn’t “your Grandma’s Ag!” New changes are always coming in and the youth, ages 18-35, can be the voice to promote agriculture with an educational base that will create the largest and strongest voice. All the components listed above are ways to make young agriculturalists the best they can be as well as making sure our voice is heard. It is a comforting fact to know that you can live miles away from your local small town and still make a difference in state and national issues, but with this comes the price of being educated and willing to take the initiative to join and create that voice that will be heard.
For more information please contact Karin Clark through the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers through the contact information below.
Kerin Clark – firstname.lastname@example.org