2010 Michigan Farm Bureau Young Farmer Leaders Conference

Well, I just got back from my first Michigan Farm Bureau Young Farmer event and…I had a blast!!  This year’s conference was held at the fabulous Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids and was an awesome opportunity to meet people and learn about how we, as young farmers, can do our best to advocate for our industry.

This year’s conference had some wonderful speakers lined up, including well-known agricultural advocate and Nebraska rancher Trent Loos.  Now that the conference is over, I think it is good to reflect on some of the things we learned:

  • You need to make sure you put a real-person behind “agriculture”.

Trent Loos told a story of how he went to a HSUS rally and one of the girls approached him and asked “Are you a real farmer?” After assuring her he was, she proceeded to say, “Wow, I’ve always thought about what I’d say if I ever actually met a farmer.”

In Michigan, 67% of consumers have not been on a farm in the last five years and 24% have never been a farm.  With that being the case, it is extremely important that, when we interact with the non-ag public, we make sure that they know we are real people.  Tell them your story.

  • Social media is a tool to share your story, but it is not the silver bullet.

Social media is a great tool for making a stand against HSUS, PETA, etc., meeting others who share your beliefs, and having dialogue with those who don’t.  However, don’t expect social media to solve all the issues in agriculture.  It is still necessary for us to be visible in our communities, talk to consumers, and learn as much as we can about what is happening in our industry.

  • Make sure you tell your story in a way people understand.

rBST? Days to 250? Pre-harvest interval?

Many times, farmers use jargon (language only we understand) like this when describing what we do on our farms.  Unfortunately, most people have no idea what any of these mean.  It is important to share your stories using common terms and descriptions.  If you can’t, make sure you constantly ask if people need clarification and be patient when explaining.  If we don’t get on the same page, change can never occur.

Overall, I am extremely optimistic about the future leaders of agriculture–both in Michigan and across the country.  We were able to learn a lot of valuable information about how to advocate for the industry and had a great time bonding with a truly amazing group of people.  I can’t wait to attend next year’s conference!

Thank you GreenStone Farm Credit Services and Michigan Farm Bureau for your generous support of the 2010 Young Farmer Leaders Conference.

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