I often share how I first got outside my fencerows as a young farmer after complaining to my dad about all the problems I was facing in the dairy business. He took me to a Farm Bureau meeting where the members elected me to chair my county Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee. I wasn’t quite sure what I had gotten into, but that meeting was a pivotal moment in my life.
As a member of our YF&R Committee, I was immersed in training, conferences and networking opportunities all over the country. As a young farmer, I never would have imagined that I would one day be the 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. These programs can introduce young people to other Farm Bureau members from around the country and help them develop leadership skills to use in the organization and their communities.
Long before I was a member of Farm Bureau, and in the decades since that first meeting, our organization has continued to invest in our young members because they are the future of farming and ranching. We should always leave something in better shape than we found it, and I want to leave this organization in a better position for the future than when I was elected in 2016. Investing in our young farmers and ranchers is time and resources well spent, which is why I want to make sure that our YF&R Committees at every level have all they need to be successful and pursue their goals both on and off the farm.
Around 800 young farmers and ranchers gathered in Louisville recently for the national Young Farmers & Ranchers Leadership Conference. There they worked on building their leadership skills and being better farmers. But most importantly, they were building relationships with each other. I shared with these young people how we can’t overcome challenges on our own. We all need help at different times throughout our lives. And every successful person has had someone lifting them up when they are struggling or encouraging them when they feel like giving up.
These young farmers are helping to lift up their communities too. Last year, young farmers from across the country collected enough food and funds to provide 30.5 million meals to those in need as part of our Harvest for All program. And many county and state committees work in their communities to raise funds for scholarships, support local organizations and step up to help community members after disasters. These men and women are shining examples of how Farm Bureau is committed to strengthening farmers and ranchers and our rural communities.
I’m proud of the work all our grassroots members are doing across the country. You all are helping make rural America an even better place to live and start a family. And just as we work together to invest in our communities for a better future, we can ensure a bright future for American agriculture by creating opportunities for the next generation of farmers and ranchers and giving them the tools they need to succeed.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.