Opinion by Chalsey KortesWritten by Saige
By Chalsey Kortes, Chair, Wyoming Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers
Hello, I’m Chalsey Kortes, a fourth generation rancher in north Carbon County, and I am currently serving as the Wyoming Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Chair. We recently hosted our annual Young Farmer and Rancher Conference in Casper and are excited for the year to come.
But first, let me tell you a little bit about the Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) program. The YF&R program is a fully integrated part of Farm Bureau at the county, state, and national level for members ages 18 to 35. The objective of the YF&R program is to provide leadership in building a more effective Farm Bureau to preserve our individual freedoms and expand our opportunities in agriculture, and we are so fortunate to be a part to the nation’s largest grassroots organization. The American Farm Bureau Federation is the national unified voice of agriculture and Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation has been working for 90-plus years helping members protect private property rights and to achieve an equitable return on their investments in our great state.
What are some of the main projects of the Wyoming YF&R?
The first one is our Ag Books for Kids project. Each year the committee selects a book and the county Farm Bureaus purchase and distribute the books to their local elementary schools. The committee also hosts contests – a coloring contest for grades K-1, poster contest for grades 2-3 and a book review contest for grades 4-5. This year’s book is “Seed, Soil, and Sun” by Cris Peterson. I encourage all students to go and check this book out in 2012. Numerous Farm Bureau members from around the state will also make classroom presentations to read the book to students and provide an activity for them to learn more about agriculture. We will also ask Governor Mead to declare the week of Feb. 13 as Ag Literacy Week.
Next, in February we will send committee members to the AFBF YF&R National Leadership Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich. This is an awesome opportunity to network with other young farmers and ranchers, representing at least 45 states from around our country. While there, attendees will have a wide variety of sessions they can attend – topics ranging from policy, issues and personal development. On the last day, tours of local ag operations will be given. It is truly a neat opportunity to see and learn about agriculture around our country.
Another one of our projects is what we call “Harvest for All.” Back in 2003 the American Farm Bureau teamed up with America’s Second Harvest to help feed the millions of Americans who struggle with hunger. They called it “Harvest for All.” America’s Second Harvest is now Feeding America – the names have changed, but our goal stays the same. Farmers and ranchers support this project with non-perishable food donations, monetary donations or man-hours at a food bank. At the recent Wyoming Farm Bureau annual meeting, the YF&R committee collected over $1,000 and over 100 pounds of food in donations from our county Farm Bureaus. At our recent YF&R conference, committee members and conference attendees donated time at the Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies. Members filled 368 food boxes that will be donated to needy families this Christmas.
Later in 2012 we will host two different discussion meets, one for college students (majoring or minoring in ag) and one for Farm Bureau YF&R regular members. The discussion meet contest is one that simulates a committee meeting where members discuss a topic and strive to come up with an answer or conclusion. I encourage any interested people to watch for upcoming information in the Wyoming Agriculture newspaper and at wyfb.org.
An additional opportunity is to serve on the American Farm Bureau YF&R committee. I had the wonderful opportunity to do just that for the past two years. While on the national committee I served with folks from 21 different states and was amazed with all the different commodities we produce – pork, beef, chicken, sheep, eggs, dairy, almonds, apples, cherries, corn, wheat, soybeans, specialty Asian vegetables, citrus, hay, cotton, rice, maple, tomatoes, potatoes and pumpkins. We were each a different link in the agricultural chain, but nonetheless, we were in the same chain. Through the AFBF staff we worked to learn from one another and we shared our experiences.
Lastly, that takes us up to our Wyoming Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference. I am excited with the information shared at our recent gathering in Casper. We enjoyed listening to speakers with topics such as Ag Issues Facing Wyoming’s Producers, Life Insurance and Estate Planning, Risk Management, Telling Your Story, Credit Information and Herd Selection. We were honored to have Senator Barrasso join us, as well!
The Wyoming Farm Bureau YF&R Committee is enthusiastic about the year ahead of us. Feeding and clothing the world is a tall, but exciting, task and I am so thankful to have Farm Bureau and the Young Farmer and Rancher program there for me. From our homes to yours, we wish you a wonderful Christmas and a very happy 2012!
For more information, visit us on the web at wyfb.org or Facebook/Wyoming Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers.