By: Izabella Michitsch
Phoenix is a great place in the wintertime, 70 degrees, manicured lawns, palm trees and not to mention the desert and cacti. Now imagine Phoenix overrun with cowboy boots and hats, farmers and ranchers, Farm Bureau members, Young Farmers and Ranchers, and Collegiate chapters all gathered at the J.W. Marriott Desert Ridge for the 2013 National Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference.
The National Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference was also linked with the National Leadership Conference for a day. The Conference had numerous opportunities from speakers, to sessions ranging from leadership, the 2013 Farm Bill, how to manage expenses on the farm, learning about social media, and numerous other topics.
I was fortunate enough to attend with the Missouri State University Collegiate Farm Bureau Club with 11 classmates. We arrived Thursday afternoon and were able to explore the resort, swim in the heated pool and lazy river, and walk to a nearby mall before the National YF&R Conference started on Saturday. It was exciting to have the sun on our faces and to enjoy the warm weather after a Missouri winter!
Saturday marked the start of the National Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference and the end of the National Leadership Conference. Saturday we attended the Welcome Address by the American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman and saw the Class 6 Graduation from the Partners in Agricultural Leadership program.
After, we broke out into different sessions and were able to choose from a wide variety of topics. The first one we choose to attend was to learn more about the Farm Bill and how it affects everyone across the nation, farmer or not. The second was how to use social media to tell our story and to be an advocate for agriculture. We learned techniques for reaching all types of demographics and variety of people.
Following the second session, we had a luncheon followed by a speaker. The speaker was a former Navy Commander and Leadership expert, named Michael Abrashoff. He talked about how he unwilling to boss his crew around but instead lead the crew by encouraging them make the right decisions on their own. He gave a lot of ways to lead without being bossy and only being there to serve the crew. That night we went out to dinner with the Missouri Farm Bureau board and members. After dinner, we were able to relax and rest up for the next day.
Sunday was an early day. We were up by seven to watch the Collegiate Discussion meet contest. Justin Mauss represented Missouri State by competing in the meet. Justin did a great job competing in 2 rounds of the meet but did not make it to the Sweet 16 round. After the luncheon we went to listen to another speaker named Dr. Bernie Erven who was a professor at The Ohio State University on farm management. Following this talk, we attended a session on advocating for agriculture. We learned how we could advocate to all ages but focused more on the younger generation, kindergarten through high school. We were able to bring back information from the session to advocate to others.
Next, we went to watch the Final Four Round of the discussion meet. I thought it was very interesting to see how competitive the contestants get with each other to win. We were served a delicious meal that evening before someone pulled the fire alarm and we had to evacuate the resort! It was very comical because everyone was unsure of what was going on and we all thought it was a joke. We were fortunate to be able to get picture with the American Farm Bureau President, Bob Stallman, and the Missouri Farm Bureau President, Blake Hurst.
For me the weekend was an exciting, learning experience. I was able to take a trip with a great group to learn more about Missouri agriculture and agriculture across the nation. I learned of how hard it is for farmers and what the agriculture industry is doing to help. I was able to bring back what I learned from the conference and share my experience. I hope to be able to attend the 2014 National Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference in Virginia Beach, Virginia.