YOUNG FARMERS LEARN ADVOCACY SKILLS AT SUMMER CONFERENCE
MONTGOMERY, Ala., July 24-- Preparing farmers to be advocates for their industry and way of life was the theme when more than 125 Alabama Farmers Federation members gathered in Montgomery July 23-24 for the inaugural Alabama Young Farmers Summer Conference.
|Troy and Stacy Hadrick of South Dakota, left, visit with Alabama Outstanding Young Farm Family Angie and Gaylan Shelly of Escambia County, right, following the Hadricks presentation on agricultural advocacy Saturday during the Alabama Young Farmers Summer Conference.|
"This new event gives many of our young farmers a chance to visit the Alfa home office and interact with staff while networking with other young farmers from around the state," said Federation Young Farmers Director Brandon Moore. "The summer conference gave us an opportunity to provide focused training for our young farmers on becoming advocates for agriculture, whether dealing with elected officials or people in the community who have misconceptions about farming."
The conference began Friday evening with a reception honoring the six finalists in the Outstanding Young Farm Family competition. Federation president Jerry Newby, whose leadership training included a term as state Young Farmers chairman, welcomed the participants prior to a keynote address by South Dakota farmers Troy and Stacy Hadrick.
The Hadricks are part of the Advocates for Agriculture movement, which challenges farmers to tell their stories through personal relationships, public speaking and education as well as social media and traditional news outlets. Both are graduates of the distinguished Partners in Agricultural Leadership program, and they were the American Farm Bureau Federation's 2004 Excellence in Agriculture contest winners.
During their address, Troy recalled how a misleading news report about his family farm prompted him to get involved as a self-advocate.
"When we see inaccurate messages, we have to be willing to speak up; we have to advocate," Troy told the Alabama young farmers during a followup workshop on Saturday. "One person can accomplish a lot," he added. "But you have to be willing to be a voice for your industry."
The Hadricks led participants in an exercise that gave each young farmer an opportunity to develop a short "elevator speech" that relates the farming experience to healthy food and the environment. The Hadricks also constructed a message map that helped the young farmers develop supporting messages for key points that are communicated to the public.
Saturday's agenda included a presentation by Jessica Dent, executive director of Connecting Alabama. The effort, which is administered through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, aims to bring broadband Internet service to the entire state by funding a comprehensive mapping project and encouraging the expansion of service by Internet providers.
Brian Hardin, assistant director of the Federation's Department of Governmental and Agricultural Programs, also provided an update on legislative and political activities of the Federation.
During the day, young farmers from across the state had the opportunity to practice advocacy skills in the Discussion Meet and Excellence in Agriculture contests.
The Discussion Meet combines public speaking, problem-solving and consensus-building abilities in a committee-style setting. Contestants are given a discussion topic based on issues affecting agriculture. The competitors then engage one another in a discussion that not only identifies the problem, but also uncovers solutions and develops an action plan. The participants are judged on their communications skills, knowledge of agriculture and ability to lead a productive discussion.
The Excellence in Agriculture program is designed for young agricultural professionals employed off the farm. Each contestant prepares and presents an illustrated talk about how their work and civic activities strengthen agriculture.
Saturday night Kirk Smith of Blount County was recognized as the 2010 winner of the Excellence in Agriculture contest. As this year's winner, he will receive $500 from Dodge and $500 from the Farmers Federation. The runner-up, Kelly Pritchett of Pike County, will receive $500 from the Federation. Smith will give his presentation at the Federation's Annual Meeting in December and will represent Alabama at the American Farm Bureau Federation's 2011 Excellence in Agriculture contest in Atlanta.
Four finalists in the Discussion Meet also were announced. Katie Hines of Madison County, Allie Corcoran of Barbour County, Mike Dole of St. Clair County and Josh Turner of DeKalb County will now go on to compete in the Alabama Discussion Meet at the Federation's Annual Meeting. The state winner will represent Alabama in Farm Bureau's national contest.
National winners in the Excellence in Agriculture, Discussion Meet and Achievement Award contests will each receive a Dodge Ram, courtesy of Ram Trucks. Alabama's Outstanding Young Farm Family represents the state in the Achievement Award competition.
The keynote speakers and workshops during the 2010 Alabama Young Farmers Summer Conference were sponsored by First South Farm Credit.