In July 2016, I was extremely excited to hear that I had been accepted into the AgriPOWER program. This began a journey, like no other I had ever experienced. Session one got under way with orientation which consisted of getting to know the other participants and learning about the make-up of the Farm Bureau organization. Additionally, we learned about our personal strength styles and emotional intelligence. By the end of the first session, I had bonded with some new friends and realized I had just embarked on a remarkable journey.
All subsequent sessions were just as good as the first. We learned about the issues facing American producers and consumers. Some of the issues I was aware of, but others were new to me. We received social media training to enhance our knowledge on advocacy. I was able to utilize these skills and advocate agricultural issues by having an opportunity to be interviewed by a local newspaper reporter.
Throughout the program, we visited many different types of agricultural enterprises in Ohio. A few of my favorites include the following: a Christmas tree farm, a 4,800 head hog farm, a greenhouse tomato farm, a pheasant farm, Bittersweet Farms CSA, and an organic beef operation. Each time we visited an enterprise, my appreciation for the work that goes into such operations grew.
In addition to farm visits, we had an opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. and meet with our local congressional representatives. In addition, we received a special unexpected visit by American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. This was a new experience for me. Thanks to the issues training, I was able to confidently speak with my representative about various issues affecting agriculture.
There was also an agricultural tour in Georgia where we learned about the production of onions, peanuts, cotton, peaches and timber. All of these operations were very diverse, yet they all shared a love for agriculture. A highlight of this trip was having the chance to tour the Georgia Ports Authority. The Ports Authority was very impressive, with at least 40,000 containers maintained on 1,200 acre site. It is overwhelming to think that all products going from or coming into the United States are tracked and use a port, such as the one we visited.
When I reflect on my AgriPOWER experience, I realize how much I have learned and am greatful for the new friends I made. This has been one of the greatest leadership events I have ever experienced. Not only will I continue to advocate for agriculture but will encourage others to apply for the AgriPOWER program.