Young Farmers & Ranchers 2014

I am not sure how this all worked out this year, but for some reason I seem to find myself more often not on the farm and instead I’m out talking to other farmers from all over.  I promise I will get back to the business of farming soon, this week though I’m at one of my favorite conferences, Young Farmers and Ranchers Leadership Conference 2014 in Virginia Beach.

AFBF President Bob Stallman

We have heard from Virginia Secretary of Agriculture all about the important of imports and exports to this country’s agricultural industry.  We have heard how a small town girl who didn’t ever think that she wanted anything to do with farming is now the Executive Secretary for the USDA.  She encouraged us to “Talk about what you do and why you do it…because people just don’t get us farmers.”  Bob Stallman, President of American Farm Bureau gave us a challenge to keep working to tell our story, because we have to connect to a new level of consumer.  A farmer that I met just today from Indiana I think summed it up perfectly, “My grandpa started the farm, my dad turned it into a business, and now it’s my job to protect it.”

I think it’s easy to get burned out on certain activities, even for us bloggers and social media folks.  But this is one of those places that you can come to and get re-energized to get back out there and realize that you’re not alone.  Actually the conference has over 1,000 farmers and ranchers who are under the age of 35.  All of who, even while farming across the entire United States are still facing similar challenges and many ways all speak the same language, see the same challenges on the horizon, or even knocking at our back door.  And we all in some way know that we need to do our part to answer that call from Secretary Harden, “To talk about what we do and why we do it…”


All hands on Deck is the theme this year, and there have been many challenges to make sure that you’re doing your part to be a trusted source for consumers and be willing to tell your story.  So with that before I head off on our last day here in Virginia I want to extend that promise to all my readers.  I want to be a source for you to ask questions or even raise concerns.  I can’t tell you that I know it all when it comes to how our food is raised, but I do have a network of over 1,000 of my farmer and rancher friends who are ready to answer that call.


More than Just Leadership at YFR Conference

Well as some of you may know I like to stay a little…well pretty…actually honestly VERY involved in many different aspects of agriculture. Beyond the obvious of being a farmer, this would include things like agvocacy, leadership, politics, etc. So this past week I have had the chance to head down to sunny Phoenix, AZ (tough life I know) to attend the annual Young Farmers and Ranchers Leadership Conference. It’s been a great experience as always, this marks my fourth trip to this conference, attending other places like Oklahoma City, Rapid City and Orlando.

2013-02-10_16-36-44_27I know you’re all feeling super sorry for me now…PALM TREES!!

I’ve been asking myself for awhile now if all this leadership work is “worth it”, wondering if the sacrifices I make that don’t always put my family and my farm as number one on my list of priorities truly make a big enough difference to others. It’s a tough call and one that I realize after spending 5 days away from home and talking to others here, I’m not alone with those concerns. Today especially when I attended a workshop by Dr. Bernie Erven, I think I started to get some clarity as to what I was facing. Now with most things in life the answer today will never be the same answer tomorrow as changes are always thrown your way, but just for today I do feel like I have received a bit of clarity in this mess of leadership, family, & work balance.

Dr. Bernie on one hand reaffirmed that I’m not alone in this struggle, he said that most people in that room had 3 roles in their lives, “The family role, the business role and the personal role.” And all those three hats had to worn at different times, known when to take one off and throw on another, and also how to be the person you should be in each situation. I realized that many times, we forget to switch roles and we don’t always give enough time to each role that we all play. And on the other hand I was hoping he would give me the 2min answer to all my questions. Instead he said that there are no easy answers and all answers for all people are different. But, “if you start with respect, from there you can gain understanding, and from that you can make a strategy of how to work together!”

2013-02-07_16-11-47_139Cotton field, right next to Cardinal Stadium!  Talk about stressful “in town” farming!

As I sit here today in the sunny Phoenix weather, wishing that I could have it all, be involved in it all, fight all the good fights, I also realize that as inspired as I am by many opportunities, it’s tough to really evaluate how these decisions and commitments will affect all three hats you wear for your life. But I believe in what Bernie said, and I think I know where to start the conversation now. I know that there isn’t an easy answer, and maybe I just need to be reminded of that at times. And at times there may be sacrifice from different areas, but there is always something to work on, something to learn and something to work towards whether it’ while wearing your work hat, family hat or personal one. And looking back I think that this has been one of the best things I’ve gotten from Farm Bureau. It’s not just an organization that you find great friends, or learn more about politics and how to speak to the public, it’s also a place where you find people who are going through your same struggles. And with a family business as deeply rooted as agriculture those struggles between family, business and personal can be lines that are very blurry!

%d bloggers like this: