Young farmers, ranchers visit MissouriWritten by Rebecca Colnar
Kansas City, Mo. – The American Farm Bureau National Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) Leadership Conference offers an excellent opportunity for the organization’s young farmers and ranchers to learn new ideas and share solutions.
This year’s conference, with the theme “Show Me,” was held Feb. 12-15 in Kansas City, Mo. Seven young farmers and ranchers from Wyoming headed to Missouri, including Cole Coxbill who was elected to serve as the national YF&R Chair.
Garrett Horton works as a financial officer for Farm Credit Services of America and serves on the Wyoming YF&R Committee representing the Big Horn Basin and the Northwest Wyoming District. In his spare time, the Greybull resident travels to his family’s feedlot operation near Riverton where they background calves and custom feed.
“A lot of my vacations are spent on a tractor,” he admitted.
“I first got involved with the YF&R program on the state level when they asked someone from Farm Credit to speak,” said the 28-year-old.
Horton cites his work on a Farm Credit team that develops policy on how to serve young farmers and ranchers as a good tie-in with Farm Bureau’s YF&R program. He decided to attend this year’s conference and see what it was all about. He wasn’t disappointed.
This YF&R Conference was his first, and he found there was plenty to learn.
“Farm Credit is my job, and agriculture is my passion, so I attended this conference not only to grow as a YF&R member but to represent the company I work for, as well,” he said.
The workshops at the event were offered in several tracks: Advocacy, Networking and Social Media, Collegiate, Hot Topics, Leadership and Technology. Horton says he didn’t stay with one track but checked out what was offered across the board.
“One interesting workshop was on what’s coming down with the antibiotic label changes and the Veterinary Feed Directives and being able to use medicated feed,” noted Horton. “Another one I found very interesting was more of a personal development workshop that addressed being a good teammate, both in personal and business relationships. Another great workshop called Quality Beef by Numbers explained how to turn more dollars for beef by retaining ownership through slaughter and how producers can use that carcass data to determine the best cow and bull combination.”
On the last day, the conference offered a variety of tours spanning from a tour of Kansas City to a visit to local wineries to ag production.
“I opted for the South Kansas City Efficient Ag Tour, where we traveled to southeastern Kansas,” Horton noted. “We went to the BNSF Transmodal Center where we learned how they ship agricultural commodities via train. Adjacent to that was a facility where containers were filled with the dried distiller’s grains (DDGs) and soybeans.”
He continued, “We went to a couple of large farms south of Kansas City that grow corn and soybeans. They talked about the issues they faced, especially urban sprawl. Twenty years ago they moved away from the sprawl, but now they are facing it again. They figure they’ll have to move in another 15 to 20 years.”
One stop of the tour took the group to visit a farm on the state line to see how a farm works with no-till farming to save their topsoil so they can retain it.
“With what they are doing to develop organic soil, they are able to bring new ground into production that hasn’t been used in generations,” Horton said.
Horton said that the greatest value in the conference is who participants meet.
“I got to talk to my peers and share experiences. I talked to a young woman whose parents raised sugar cane. We have a lot of sugarbeets where I live in Wyoming, so we had a good discussion about the issue of genetically modified organisms and sugar,” he said. “We also had people speak to us from the national offices of Farm Credit and American Farm Bureau. Where else can you meet people like that?”
Kailey Barlow, who works on the family ranch in Big Piney and also manages the county fair and teaches therapeutic riding, found the conference to be worthwhile. Barlow has served on the Wyoming Farm Bureau YF&R Committee since 2013 and is also secretary for the Southwest Wyoming District.
Barlow attended the conference in 2013 in Phoenix and felt the conference was worthwhile, including the workshops and keynote speakers. The keynote speaker Jason Brown, a former St. Louis Ram, talked about how he walked away from the NFL and started a farm. Roger Rickard of Voice in Advocacy talked about the importance of being an advocate for what you believe in and Kelly Barns talked about how producers can use stories and life’s lessons to shape their lives and make them leaders.
“I also found the workshops I attended to be very informative,” Barlow said.
While Horton headed to Kansas for his ag tour, Barlow took the North Missouri and Ag Products tour.
“We toured Shatto Milk Company and Paradise Locker Meats,” said Barlow. “Shatto Milk Company is a dairy that bottles their milk on-site. By doing everything on-site they are able to create several different flavors of milk. They also provide home delivery of milk for their customers twice a week. While we were there we were able to sample six flavors of milk including chocolate, strawberry, banana, cotton candy, coffee and chocolate peanut butter, as well as their different types of butter and cheese curds.”
Barlow said her favorite thing about the YF&R conference is the opportunities to network with so many other young ag producers across the nation. She added that it’s important to be involved and learn all you can about advocacy.
“As the average age of the American farmer and rancher increases and young people are becoming more and more removed from agriculture, it is important that we continue to tell our story and stay involved in production agriculture,” she says. “I think there are challenges facing young people in ag today like barriers to entry. However, I also believe that there are a lot of opportunities for young people in ag, and we should embrace those opportunities.”