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How volunteers brought together nearly 300 rising food and farm advocates
Ohio Farm Bureau’s Young Agricultural Professionals (YAP) are proving that young people are very much interested in food and farming if you engage them.
At the recent annual Young Agricultural Professionals Leadership Experience held in Columbus, more than 280 young people gathered to network, share, learn from each other and from 13 workshops offered on diverse topics.
The number of young people attending this conference has steadily been growing over the past few years. The event is organized every year by the YAP Advisory Committee, and members attribute the growth to a combination of the unique workshops offered, networking opportunities and fun.
“I think we are doing a better job of marketing what we have to offer. Showing people that just because it’s a leadership conference that we do have a good time, you can learn a lot and make a lot of friends while doing it,” said Aaron Heilers, YAP advisory committee co-chair and Shelby County Farm Bureau president.
Danielle Burch, committee member from Columbiana County, said since first getting invited to the conference, she has continued to increase her involvement with YAP and Farm Bureau.
“They made me realize that I had a voice and was able to use it, and that I had good ideas. I had never met so many other young people my age that were as invested in the farm as I was,” she said.
The committee has focused on personally reaching out to county Farm Bureaus and to individual young farmers and is ensuring that attendees will be engaged and want to continue coming back.
“As a committee, we are really trying to focus on what is it young farmers want to know to grow their farming operation. There is a lot of niche farming right now and we are trying to stay up on the cutting edge of what’s new out there that can draw in some of these younger farmers,” said Katie Farley, YAP Advisory Committee chair. “Right now I feel like people really want to make themselves stand out, be a little bit different to get a little bit further in the farming industry.”
The committee also is relying on social media and electronic communications to spread the word about involvement opportunities.
“We promoted on Facebook, getting conversations started on posts and used different unique, creative ways to get the attention of young people. It only takes getting people to come once and they tend to keep coming back,” Farley said.
Another key part of the conference was the semi rounds of the Discussion Meet. The Discussion Meet simulates a committee meeting in which active discussion and participation are expected. Eight contestants participated in two rounds of the contest.
This year's topics explored how Farm Bureau could engage farmers representing all types of operations to promote a more positive image of agriculture and best practices for youth working on farms and ranches to ensure their safety and provide them learning opportunities in the area of agriculture production.
Finalists Elaine Beekman of Lorain County, Christen Clemson of Trumbull County, Elizabeth Meade of Madison County and Victoria Shaw of Medina County will compete at the YAP Summer Reach Out Conference June 28 at Mohican State Park.
Photo by Katie Farley