The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Agricultural Professionals (YAP) held a conference in Columbus Feb. 3-4, drawing more than 600 attendees who enjoyed two days of leadership training, networking, and camaraderie.
Nationwide Board Chairman and Ohio farmer Tim Corcoran challenged the young agricultural professionals to be engaged in Ohio Farm Bureau, and spoke of the many opportunities provided by the state’s largest farm organization.
“In this day and age you need to be confident, and you need to be humble. It’s the support that you give others that comes back to you several-fold,” he said. “I challenge all of you to engage in Farm Bureau. Utilize the (social media) tools you have that most of us can’t get our arms around. You are our hope.”
The “Cultivating Connections” conference drew 645 people from across Ohio who were interested in learning more about the agricultural industry and ways to make a difference in their communities. The YAP program is for Ohio Farm Bureau members age 18 to 35 who are interested in improving the business of agriculture, learning new ideas, and developing leadership skills.
Held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, the conference featured a wide range of workshops including how to understand farm leases, negotiate job offers, direct market agricultural products, and make wine or artisan cheese at home.
In her keynote address, Tyne Morgan, the national reporter for AgDay on RFD-TV, urged conference participants to be united in advancing the entire agricultural industry and not just one segment.
“We’ve got to be one voice. It’s not about organic, nonorganic. When you start talking to one person and another person and another – that’s when you effect change (and change perceptions),” she said.
Policymakers want to hear from constituents about the issues that matter most to them and how they affect their lives, said Ohio Sen. Bob Peterson.
“We can affect your lives in so many ways and you don’t even know who we are. We are desperate to talk to you,” he said. Peterson, a past Ohio Farm Bureau president, also spoke about the strength and effectiveness of a large grassroots organization like Farm Bureau, saying “When you run alone you run fast; when you run together you run far.”
Tom Somrach, a recent University of Findlay graduate, attended his fourth Young Ag Professionals conference, saying the friendships he’s made and sustained over the years is what brings him back year after year.
“I’m here because of the connections I have made. I’m still friends with people I met my first year,” said the Geauga County Farm Bureau member who recently accepted a job in the swine industry as a technical specialist, where he’ll be monitoring several farms for best practices and quality assurance.
Learning how what she learns in the classroom is applicable in real life is what drew Rishona Headen-Brown to attend the conference. She’s an Ohio State University student majoring in food science and also a member of Ohio State’s Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences.
“I’m interested in policy overall, including the farmers’ and producers’ perspective, and I’m here to learn about that. I want to find the missing links and bridge the gap between consumers, farmers and policymakers,” she said.
Patrice Crosby, a third-year Ohio State University student majoring in chemical engineering, said she was interested in learning more about natural fibers and how farming plays a role in the environment.
“I am excited about learning more about the industry, from the outside looking in,” she said.
For Ashtabula County Farm Bureau members Daniel and Sara Frank, they were excited to share what they learned about phosphorus use during one of the workshops when they returned home.
“We’re working hard to solve the water quality issues in our county,” Sara said. “We’ve had a lot of problems, and we’re learning how to prevent them from continuing.”
Members of YAP include farmers, OSU Extension agents, teachers, consumer educators, former Ohio Farm Bureau Youth members, FFA and 4-H alumni, farm media communicators, livestock and equine enthusiasts, wine makers, alpaca breeders, seed representatives, beekeepers, green industry employees, gardeners, and foodies.
More information about the innovative program can be found at experienceyap.com.