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Cultivating Leaders in Agriculture

photo credit: AFBF Photo, Wales Hunter

As farmers, we’re no strangers to planting seeds and looking to the future. Some crops take just months to grow, while others take years to bear fruit. The same can be said for what we do at Farm Bureau. Our leadership programs, education initiatives, and projects to engage consumers take time to develop and grow. Like a crop, they take planning, careful nurturing, and someone committed to making them successful.

Farm Bureau leaders bring that same commitment and care to their communities through engagement and advocacy at every level of our organization. Every two years, members and leaders from our Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee, Women’s Leadership Committee, and the Promotion & Education Committee come together for our FUSION conference. I was thrilled to join these grassroots Farm Bureau leaders—nearly 1000 strong—in Jacksonville this week as they came together for a few days of intense learning and networking. Events like these help our members sharpen the skills they need to cultivate a brighter future for agriculture.

photo credit: AFBF Photo, Wales Hunter

Nearly 1,000 grassroots leaders traveled to Jacksonville, Florida for the FUSION Conference. 

Our members don’t just invest in themselves. They invest in their communities too. Our Women’s Leadership Committee raised $78,000 for the Ronald McDonald House last year. That brings their four-year total to over $550,000. And the Harvest for All campaign, sponsored by Young Farmers & Ranchers Committees around the country, collected over 25 million pounds of food, over $1 million for food banks, and members donated over 13,000 hours of service to their communities. These efforts are helping to cultivate stronger, more resilient rural communities all over the country.

While each Farm Bureau committee has its distinct work, all three come together like the strands of a rope. Each strand can succeed independently, but the three strands are much stronger together, united in one mission: to ensure a safe and sustainable source of food, fiber, and fuel for our country and our world.

photo credit: AFBF

Women's Committee members volunteer at a Ronald McDonald House charity event. 

Our YF&R committee helps bring in young people and provides a space for them to develop leadership skills and shape the future of Farm Bureau. There we build strong leaders and communicators through training programs, competitions, and many more activities. Our Women’s Leadership Committee helps to empower leaders through advocacy and communications training. The Communications Bootcamp graduates are powerful spokespeople for farmers and ranchers in the media, state capitals, and Washington. And our P&E Committee helps to engage consumers in new ways and bridge the divide between rural and urban communities. Consumers are more curious than ever about where their food comes from, and the P&E Committee is doing great work to engage the general public on how their food is safe and sustainably grown.

At Farm Bureau, there is something for everyone. If you’re not a member, I invite you to join your local Farm Bureau today.

There is so much more these committees do, all of it grounded in the mission of our organization. Each committee reflects the Farm Bureau family, united in purpose, even though we all bring unique talents and experiences. We might do things a little bit differently, come from different backgrounds, and grow different crops, but we are all united in our desire for a bright future for our families.

photo credit: AFBF

Members donate food as part of YF&R's Harvest for All program. 

As a young farmer, I never would have imagined that I’d be president of the American Farm Bureau, and I wouldn’t be if it weren’t for the leadership development programs and opportunities at every level of Farm Bureau. I urge all of our members to make the most of these opportunities and set themselves up for success. At Farm Bureau, there is something for everyone. If you’re not a member, I invite you to join your local Farm Bureau today. Our federation and every agricultural trade association is only as strong as its engaged members.

We must plant seeds for the future and then nurture them. Start by getting involved. Attend a leadership program or engagement training - Farm Bureau offers a variety of them. The connections you make in the program and in your communities are like the roots, reaching out to build a strong support network. As that seed starts to sprout, nourish it by attending meetings, welcoming visitors to the farm, and answering questions about agriculture. If we continue to be diligent and intentional – over time- we’ll grow to our full potential.