Commentary: YF&R program develops next-generation leaders
By Lindsey Liebig
California YF&R leaders celebrate success at the American Farm Bureau Federation FUSION conference last weekend in Pittsburgh. From left: Tyler Blagg of the California YF&R State Committee; Fresno State student Hunter Berry, a finalist in the national Collegiate Discussion Meet; state YF&R Chair Johnnie White; Jenny Holtermann, YF&R State Committee; AFBF President Zippy Duvall; Nick Ferrari, YF&R State Committee; Greg Taylor, Nationwide Insurance; and Lindsey Liebig, YF&R state coordinator.
For nearly 70 years, the California Young Farmers and Ranchers program has provided young agriculturalists an opportunity to connect with their peers and become engaged with Farm Bureau at a grassroots level, while developing dynamic young leaders for both agriculture in general and Farm Bureau in particular.
YF&R members are between the ages of 18 and 35 and are involved both in production and in various agricultural business sectors. Whether they are in the field or in an office, YF&R members share a common passion for promoting agriculture within their generation.
These volunteer leaders, at both the state and local levels, recognize the important role they play in the future of Farm Bureau and agriculture as a whole.
The YF&R program strives to provide learning opportunities for members in the areas of leadership development, political advocacy and communications. By sharpening these skills, YF&R members are better able to transition from being active members of their local YF&R committees to becoming engaged leaders within their county Farm Bureaus and beyond.
The energy and excitement of younger generations brings forth new ideas and fresh perspectives, thus encouraging progressive conversations in all facets of Farm Bureau.
Members of the YF&R State Committee, representing the 21 Farm Bureau districts within California, are appointed to serve the local YF&R committees within their district. State Committee members meet on a regular basis and develop resources for county committees, execute leadership trainings and conferences, and participate in strategic planning for the YF&R program as a whole. These committee members are volunteer leaders who serve both their local committees and the greater YF&R program, representing California at national YF&R functions throughout their service on the committee.
This past week, YF&R State Committee members attended the American Farm Bureau Federation FUSION Conference in Pittsburgh, Pa. This conference, comprised of YF&R, Women's Committee and Promotion & Education Committee members from across the nation, focused on enhancing members' skill sets in the areas of leadership, volunteer engagement, communication and grassroots advocacy. California YF&R committee members had the opportunity to network with members from other states, learning about their committee successes and exchanging ideas on ways to enhance the California program.
These skills and ideas will be featured at the upcoming annual California YF&R Conference. This conference is attended by more than 200 YF&R members, sponsors and agricultural representatives from across California and neighboring states. The conference brings an opportunity to network with other YF&R members, gain insight and ideas for enhancing local YF&R committees, and receive resources and briefings on key issues and topics affecting California agriculture.
The 2017 YF&R Conference will be held in Modesto on Feb. 23-25, with the theme: "Planting Seeds for the Future." The conference will offer sessions focusing on agricultural technology, social media communications, media advocacy and Farm Bureau policy.
Additionally, the YF&R State Committee will again host a one-day leadership training seminar for county YF&R chairs and other local committee leaders. This training is intended to provide leadership development specifically for those members wanting to take the next step in YF&R leadership. The seminar will be held in Sacramento on July 29; session topics will include committee resource development, communication, and meeting and member engagement. The discussions at this seminar provide direction for the State Committee as it develops the program of work for the coming year.
The State Committee also focuses on facilitating regional agricultural tours aimed at bringing YF&R members together outside of traditional leadership conferences. The tours provide not only an educational activity, but an opportunity for neighboring county committees to join together and expand their network, in a social setting. By hosting these networking events, members are able to experience the full spectrum of the YF&R program, through social, educational and professional development activities.
In addition to member involvement and leadership development, the YF&R program focuses on providing opportunities for members to become engaged in larger political-advocacy efforts within Farm Bureau. YF&R members serve on California Farm Bureau Federation Issue Advisory Committees, participating in each committee's discussion, policy development and resolution recommendations. Through increased participation in political advocacy, YF&R members are becoming more engaged within their own county Farm Bureaus and Advisory Committees. Additionally, they are able to share their experiences with their peers, thus expanding member engagement at the YF&R level.
Along with political advocacy, the YF&R State Committee strongly encourages members to become involved in political action through FARM TEAM®, FARM PAC® and advocacy meetings. YF&R members are active in responding to FARM TEAM alerts and meeting with their elected representatives, both in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. Farm Bureau encourages YF&R members to host elected officials on agricultural tours and to share their personal stories on how legislative issues affect their operations and livelihoods. YF&R members also assist with FARM PAC fundraising events at both the county and state levels.
To round out the leadership development and networking aspects of the program, YF&R promotes community service through the Harvest for All program. This partnership with Feeding America—the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization—allows YF&R members to take part in events that raise money and collect food for local food banks and communities.
California YF&R has been a national leader in this program, receiving accolades for setting new records for total food contributions year after year. At the just-concluded FUSION Conference, California was recognized with a 1st-place award in the food donation category, with donations exceeding 15 million pounds, secured through various gleaning events and community partnerships.
For more information on the YF&R program, how to become involved in a local YF&R committee or YF&R events and activities, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit yfr.cfbf.com.
(Lindsey Liebig is state coordinator for the California Young Farmers and Ranchers Program. She may be contacted at email@example.com.)
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