Ashton Walls Communications Boot Camp 2019

Walls participates in national communications boot camp

Editor’s Note: Ashton Walls is a graduate of American Farm Bureau’s Women’s Communications Boot Camp. She shares her experience from the group’s summer meeting. The intensive four-day course comprised hands-on sessions related to public speaking, working with the media and messaging.

Making the most of my opportunity

By Ashton Walls, Knox County

As we sat in a conference room at the American Farm Bureau headquarters in Washington, D.C., they asked us to share one word of how we were feeling. I chose “invigorated.” I know that drastically conflicts with the average feeling of farmers this spring considering the fact that Mother Nature has been overzealous with precipitation, but there was a lot of forward momentum in the room.

There we were 15 ladies from all across the U.S., including myself, about to embark on a journey on behalf of agriculture. We were all there to obtain new skills and share ideas to help promote an industry that has given us all so much. The three-day boot camp is an intensive training opportunity for any Farm Bureau female member interested in building skills needed to communicate about agriculture. We interacted with numerous members of AFBF staff as they helped us all expand our advocacy efforts, met with our congressional representatives on Capitol Hill and heard from an array of dynamic speakers including special guest Anne Hazlett, senior adviser for rural affairs at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

So why would I use three days of vacation from work to travel 400 miles to give a speech on water quality, a topic I spent many hours researching, in front of a room full of strangers? Why not! Because I routinely ask myself what is the point in being a member of a volunteer organization if I’m not going to be actively involved? I chose to take advantage of this opportunity because I wanted to grow, and I care about the future of agriculture and all of us who are a part of it. Farmers have a lot on their plates, but we need to make sure advocacy is always on the menu too, even if it’s just a few bites like the vegetables we all hated to eat as kids.

Walls graduation
Boot Camp graduation

As first-generation farmers, my husband and I joined Farm Bureau eight years ago because we wanted agriculture to be a bigger part of our lives. We took that first step and were quickly welcomed into the Farm Bureau family. From there the opportunities have been endless because we chose to act upon them. Farm Bureau at the county and state level does more than its fair share of extending invitations to us all; it’s up to us to take the next step. Whether you farm a few thousand acres, have a small livestock herd or work in a grocery store, be proud of your contributions to agriculture. It all adds up, so make your membership count.

Lastly, to any women reading this I challenge you to take the next step and apply for the fall session of the AFBF Women’s Communications Boot camp. You will not be disappointed. I encourage all members of Farm Bureau to do something more. Take the next step and engage yourself in something beyond your comfort zone, because if you don’t do it now, will you really do it later?

To apply for the fall session

The American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee, in partnership with AFBF staff, hosts and provides training for the Women’s Communications Boot Camp. This is the 13th year of the program, which has 195 graduates and is open to all women involved in Farm Bureau. The fall session of Boot Camp will be conducted Oct. 22-25. Application deadline: Aug. 15, 2019