I’m not a life-long, die-hard Farm Bureau member, nor did I grow up in a culture that emphasized participation in the organization. To say that I don’t fit the “typical” Farm Bureau mold is an understatement. As such, I entered AgriPOWER Class VIII as a skeptic. An outsider seeking to reconcile OFBF’s professed desire to represent all types and methods of agriculture with the policy and professional messaging that told me otherwise. How could Farm Bureau say that they spoke for me and my farming methods, yet advocate and champion practices so contrary to my values?
And so I decided to take a look behind the curtain, directly into the heart of Ohio’s largest agricultural advocacy organization, and what I found surprised me.
I found an group of people excited about the future of agriculture, but still wrestling with the past. I found an organization struggling to keep its culture and foundation, while acknowledging that some things had to change. I found folks who professed a desire for inclusiveness, understanding, and common ground, but who often found themselves on the other side of a divide with a seemingly insurmountable wall already in place.
There were times during AgriPOWER presentations that a high-level leader within OFBF would assume that they were preaching to “the choir,” look over their shoulder as if they were about to tell an off-color joke, then proceed to tear down my values, farming methods, and overall outlook. The back-peddling started once they realized that I wasn’t singing on key.
However, those instances were relatively rare. More often than not, AgriPOWER facilitated productive, meaningful conversations in which I was encouraged to speak, and challenged to listen. Overwhelmingly, my classmates and the OFBF leadership that I interacted with were both receptive to alternative opinions and excited to share a passion for their own agricultural beliefs.
And so, I’m leaving my AgriPOWER Class VIII experience excited, challenged, and hopeful. I’m more excited than ever to pursue our alternative methods of agriculture. I’m challenged to find a place within OFBF where I can continue to participate in productive conversations and cultivate common ground. But most of all, I’m hopeful for OFBF’s future. Challenges rise and divisions threaten but, if my AgriPOWER classmates are any indication, the future of OFBF is indeed bright. I’ve seen into the heart of the organization, and it beats strong and sincere.