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June 14, 2010   Email to Friend 

Darryal Ray
(334) 613-4187
June 14, 2010

About 120 delegates from 27 counties attended the annual Alabama Farmers Federation Youth Leadership Conference at the 4-H center in Columbiana on June 11-13. From left, front row, are Daniel Hall of Randolph County, a member of the Federation's State Young Farmers Committee, Amber Stallworth of Clarke County and Colby Mansmann of Crenshaw County; back row, Chelsey Dunn of Dale County; and chaperone Ashley Peak of Geneva County.
COLUMBIANA, Ala. -- More than 100 high school students from 27 counties gathered at the Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana June 11-13 to learn the about characteristics of leadership during the annual Alabama Farmers Federation's Youth Leadership Conference.

The conference, with "A Sign of Leadership" as its theme, is geared toward developing leadership qualities in youth.

"The main thing we try to accomplish at this conference is to give them a good idea about agriculture, what it is and why it's important," said Federation Young Farmers Director Brandon Moore. "But it's also a general leadership conference and we try to teach these kids that regardless of what career field they choose -- if they choose agriculture or law or medicine -- that there are institutions out there who rely on a steady flow of emerging young leaders to take leadership positions in their industries."

Jeff Maze, chairman of the Federation's State Young Farmers Committee, echoed Moore's assessment, calling the conference "an excellent opportunity no matter what field you go into."

"Farmers would like for these young folks to pursue ag as their career, but all industries need young people to come on and replace those who retire," Maze said. "The workshops that we do here are competitive but they really sharpen these kids communications and people skills. I think it is sometimes perceived that it's 'just for ag,' but it's really not. Many of our delegates have never been on a farm."

The annual conference, aimed at high school sophomores and juniors, is sponsored by the Federation's Young Farmers Division. Delegates are selected by their county Federations and county Young Farmers committees to attend based on previous academic and extra-curricular achievements.

The Geneva County Farmers Federation sent the largest contingent with eight delegates, and Bibb County was right behind with seven. Other counties sending delegates were Autauga, Baldwin, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Clarke, Coffee, Crenshaw, Cullman, Dale, Dallas, DeKalb, Etowah, Fayette, Houston, Lamar, Limestone, Marion, Marshall, Montgomery, Randolph, Shelby, St. Clair, Talladega and Winston.

"It's a big commitment to send delegates to this conference," said Boyd Deal, an area organization director with the Federation. "For a county Federation like Geneva's, which doesn't have a large membership, to send that many kids ... that's a real commitment."

Activities during the three-day conference included team-building and problem-solving exercises on the 4-H Center's low ropes course and a workshop on common misconceptions about agriculture presented by the State Young Farmers Committee. Auburn University's College of Agriculture also presented a workshop on career opportunities in agriculture. A special seminar on "Cowboy Values: the Code of the West" dealt with the importance of values, ethics and leadership.

The Young Farmers program is aimed at helping farmers and other agricultural professionals ages 17-35 achieve success in their businesses and to become leaders in their communities and the Farmers Federation.

For more information, visit AlfaYoungFarmers.com.

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