Commentary: Program opens opportunities for young farmers


Issue Date: February 10, 2016
By Lindsey Liebig
Lindsey Liebig
Sacramento County Young Farmers and Ranchers members pack squash as part of a gleaning project to benefit a local food bank. The YF&R program allows members to participate in community-service, leadership-development and networking activities.
Photo/Christine Souza

From networking to leadership development, the California Young Farmers and Ranchers program offers young agriculturalists an opportunity to not only connect with their peers, but become engaged with Farm Bureau at a grassroots level, thus developing dynamic leaders.

YF&R members are between the ages of 18 and 35 and are involved in production, farm lending and many other areas of the agriculture business. Whether they are growers or work within the related business sector, YF&R members share a 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 developing these skills, YF&R members can transition from being active members of their local YF&R committee to becoming leaders within their county Farm Bureau. The energy and excitement of youth brings new ideas and fresh perspectives to the table, thus stimulating progressive conversations across the board.

The YF&R State Committee mirrors the CFBF Board of Directors, and thus is comprised of YF&R members representing the 21 Farm Bureau districts within California. These leaders are appointed by their CFBF district director and are responsible for overseeing 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 various national YF&R functions throughout their service on the committee.

In an effort to bring together YF&R members throughout the state, the YF&R State Committee hosts an annual leadership conference in February. This two-day conference is attended by more than 200 YF&R members, sponsors and agricultural representatives from across California and neighboring states. The conference is 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.

Coupled with leadership and professional development sessions, the conference offers several agricultural tours showcasing various production and agricultural business operations within the host county. The 2016 YF&R Conference will be held in San Luis Obispo on Feb. 25-27.

Aside from the annual conference, the YF&R State Committee hosts county YF&R chairs and other local committee leaders at a one-day leadership training seminar every summer. This training is designed to provide leadership development created specifically for those members wanting to take the next step in YF&R leadership. Sessions include committee resource development, communications, and meeting and member engagement, among others.

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.

As part of the implementation of new CFBF Issue Advisory Committees, YF&R members are appointed to participate 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 communities.

Along with political advocacy, the State YF&R 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 political FARM PAC fundraising events at both the county and state levels.

To showcase their efforts among other members, the YF&R program features multiple competitions and recognitions, including the Discussion Meet, Agricultural Achievement Award, Excellence in Agriculture Award, YF&R Committee of the Year and Star YF&R member:

  • The Discussion Meet competition occurs at both the collegiate and open levels and focuses on fostering committee discussion skills centered on agricultural issues.
  • The Agricultural Achievement Award recognizes a YF&R member's efforts in production agriculture and leadership activities.
  • The Excellence in Agriculture Award, on the other hand, recognizes YF&R members who don't derive a majority of their income from production farming, but are active within the agriculture business in other capacities.
  • Additionally, the State YF&R Committee honors outstanding local YF&R committees and individual members for their dedication to Farm Bureau and involvement in various activities and events.

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 leader across the nation in this program, receiving accolades for setting new records for total food contributions year after year.

For more information on the YF&R program, how to become involved in your local YF&R committee or YF&R events and activities, please contact yfr@cfbf.com or visit yfr.cfbf.com.

(Lindsey Liebig is state coordinator for the California Young Farmers and Ranchers Program. She may be contacted at lliebig@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.