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Hundreds of Ohio farmers gather to discuss opportunities to grow together
Ohio Farm Bureau’s 2011 Leadership Conference kicked off with a review of the organization’s long list of accomplishments in the first half of the year.
Steve Hirsch, addressing the membership for the first time as Farm Bureau president, recapped legislative victories that included eliminating the estate tax and preserving funding for important agricultural programs in the state budget.
“Lots of choices were made, lots of favorite programs were hit. But Farm Bureau made sure agriculture’s priorities were Ohio’s priorities,” he said.
Driven by belief
But regardless of the individual issues, Hirsch said farmers and Farm Bureau are driven by basic beliefs.
“What are the core reasons we don’t manufacture widgets or sell used cars or write books or make a living in any one of a thousand other ways? Why do we choose to be farmers over any other occupation? I can’t answer for you but here’s my 'why': I farm because I get to work with my family, including my children to carry on a 140 year legacy that is our farm.”
He also asked what farmers believed across three, four and five generations that inspired them to take on the issues of the day through Farm Bureau.
“Have you ever stopped to think about why Farm Bureau, unlike any other organization, was able to get all this done?” he said, referring to the organization’s long history of advocacy and action.
The organization, Hirsch said, represents the belief that farmers working collectively can secure what’s important to farmers’ individually.
“We believe in working and growing together,” he said.
Moving Forward by Looking Backward
OFBF Executive Vice President Jack Fisher said connecting with that core purpose is important as many associations — from churches to civic groups — have been facing declining membership and volunteer involvement.
Ohio Farm Bureau has been studying the challenges facing other associations. It has also been looking back on its own history captured in the book “Vice President in Charge of Revolution” written by early Farm Bureau visionary Murray Lincoln.
“Murray Lincoln had a lot of things to teach us and share with us,” Fisher said.
Fisher said the belief that drives him “is about all of us working together for a better quality of life.”
He described that belief by using an equation: food security plus family security leads to community security.
“Food security in the broadest definition you can think of is what we do in Farm Bureau,” he said.
He pointed to family security as part of Farm Bureau’s heritage and history, working with Nationwide, Medical Mutual of Ohio and other cooperative companies that provide families with tools to take care of their needs.
“This adds up to what we do in Farm Bureau and with our partners to community security,” Fisher said.
Focusing on this belief in not just about surviving, Fisher said, it’s about thriving. And as Farm Bureau works to build community, he said the organization must overcome the time constraints that face families in today’s society.
“People do have time, we found out, if we have meaningful work, if we define the work, if we create new ideas and if it’s a cause we believe in,” Fisher said.
Photo Credit: Galen Harris