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June 24, 2006   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
June 24, 2006

Young Farmers and Youth Leadership Conference participants pack boxes of donated food for the Harvest For All program. From left are, Ashley Bonds of Escambia County, Kaycee Lassiter of Montgomery County, State Young Farmers Committee Member Will Gilmer and Kristen Carver of Crenshaw County.
COLUMBIANA, Ala. -- Alabama's future leaders had a chance to practice problem solving and teamwork while enhancing their citizenship and knowledge of agriculture at the Alabama Farmers Federation's Youth Leadership Conference June 23-25 at the Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana.

About 60 outstanding young people from across the state participated in the event, which was hosted by the Federation's Young Farmers Division. Although many of the students have distinguished themselves as leaders in local FFA and 4-H clubs, Young Farmers Director Brandon Moore said the three-day conference is meant to develop leadership in teens from both farm and non-farm backgrounds.

"Regardless of what career these students choose, there are trade organizations, industry associations and charitable organizations that rely on a steady supply of members who have cultivated leadership skills and are willing to take on the responsibility of leadership," Moore said. "The Youth Leadership Conference shows them the importance of a servant attitude while developing those skills."

The concept of servant leadership was instilled in the participants beginning with registration. The teens were encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to the conference, which were donated to food banks as part of the Young Farmers' participation in a nationwide food drive effort called "Harvest for All."

Following registration, the students participated in workshops on problem-solving, leadership and agriculture. Alabama's state FFA officers conducted the leadership workshop, which included hands-on teambuilding activities.

"Our goal is for them to develop better communication and teamwork skills and therefore become better leaders," said State FFA President Salora Wright of Lauderdale County. "This is important to FFA because we have to have people who are willing to step up above the chapter level and become better leaders -- because without better leaders, FFA can't become a better organization."

The Federation's State Young Farmers Committee conducted a workshop called "Food for Thought" aimed at helping the students understand the importance of agriculture to society and the economy. The first day of the conference also included a variety of activities that allowed participants to complete group tasks while practicing different leadership styles and techniques.

Operation Midas, held during the second day of the conference, utilized role-playing to drive home the importance teamwork. The students were challenged to get the U.S. Trade Representative to promote their assigned agricultural commodities during a trade mission to China. The teens learned how farmers achieve greater success by working together. In Operation Midas, the teens first presented their cases as individuals, then later as small commodity associations and finally as a large group of allied commodity groups that share common challenges and opportunities. The students then discussed how cooperation increased their level of success.

The conference also included an inspirational and educational presentation by Autauga County farmer and speaker Dianne Gaines. Other workshops took advantage of the 4-H Center's ropes and confidence course, where the students had to work as teams to overcome obstacles.

For more information about the Federation's Young Farmers program and Youth Leadership Conference, visit www.AlfaYoungFarmers.org.

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