AgriPOWER Alumni enewsletter inaugural edition

Do you believe in New Year’s resolutions? I have never been big on New Year’s’ resolutions. But last December, I decided to make a small list of resolutions. Here are a few of them

  1. When Mom makes a dessert, go ahead and eat it, guilt-free.
  2. Work to slow down and find happiness in each day.
  3. Change! When you find that what you are doing isn’t working, change! 

AgriPOWER alumniIn early March, COVID-19 turned our worlds upside down and a few things happened for me. First, my mom had more time on her hands and she loves to bake when she is bored and I have been freely exercising my first resolution. My second resolution was forced upon me, well the whole world, and it took time to transition into a slower pace of working from home and not traveling. But I have to admit, I really have enjoyed slowing down. Like many of you, I felt as if life was a blur as I was rushing between professional, personal and family commitments. Being forced to slow down, I can more easily appreciate and count the blessings in my life.

AgriPOWER AlumniIn January, my social media feed was filled with memes and quotes about “2020, the year of change.” I wonder if this was the change they were looking for?! COVID-19 has had a ripple effect on all of our lives, in ways we couldn’t have imagined when we first heard about this virus. I must admit, I spent a month focusing on how COVID-19 was negatively impacting me, my family, my farm and my work. But then I remembered my third resolution. I knew I had to CHANGE how I was navigating through and reacting to the change COVID-19 was causing.

After much discussion and reflection, Ohio Farm Bureau has decided not to begin a new AgriPOWER Class XII in 2020. It was a tough decision but we wanted to ensure the integrity of the program remained intact during a time of constant change. One factor in this decision was out of concern that the class would not fully benefit from the AgriPOWER programming and networking. As alumni, you can testify that the best part of the program is gaining friendships based on the in-person networking AgriPOWER offers. We were extremely concerned that the AgriPOWER experience would be greatly altered from past classes. The good news is we will continue AgriPOWER Class XII in 2021-2022.

You are the focus for 2020-2021

AgriPOWER Alumni So now, the focus in 2020-2021 is on re-engaging the more than 200 talented AgriPOWER alumni. A strategic and exclusive engagement plan will be developed to increase your involvement within both the Ohio Farm Bureau and the Ohio agricultural industry. This plan will include a series of virtual and in-person, in-depth training sessions that will focus on enhanced personal and professional topics as well as current policy updates.  For those of you who are always requesting AgriPOWER Part II, we are going to make that happen for you!

Before we get too far down that path, we want to hear from you first to determine what topics we should address and how. Here is a survey to share your thoughts on the topics and the preferred method of training.  Please complete it by June 19.

We hope to plan one out-of-state agricultural industry tour for alumni in January or February 2021 assuming that travel and group restrictions are lifted. Please stay tuned as we work through those details this summer.

Part of the Alumni Engagement Plan is a quarterly e-newsletter where we will share important policy updates, engagement opportunities and have an Alumni and Partner spotlight. We hope you enjoy it.

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions, concerns or ideas at 614-519-8761.

Best wishes, 

Melinda Witten, Ohio Farm Bureau 

Engagement opportunity

American Farm Bureau is seeking Farm Bureau members to author a column for the Focus on Agriculture column. AFBF is interested in “celebrating and elevating” columns written by both grassroots members and state Farm Bureau staffers. Most Focus columns are no longer than 500 words and cover a particular issue, initiative or program. The audience for Focus columns is external and internal, including contacts at daily/weekly/regional newspapers and media outlets, as well as state Farm Bureaus. A broad list of potential topics for future columns is below.  

  • #StillFarming (farmers doing their part to keep our food supply secure)
  • COVID-19 (how the pandemic is affecting the day-to-day life of members)
  • Rural mental health issues/solutions
  • Rural broadband
  • Ag labor
  • Trade 
  • Sustainability
  • Personal experiences or lessons learned on your farm

A few other points to keep in mind –

  • Focus columns are directly distributed on Wednesday each week via email, posted to the website and shared on AFBF social media.
  • If authors have Twitter handles, they are included in column bylines and authors are tagged in the posts.

To express interest and receive guidance as a potential author, email [email protected].

Issue updates

Ohio Farm Bureau staffers have been working tirelessly on your behalf. Be sure to sign up for Buckeye Farm eNews for the latest updates, rules, and regulations around COVID-19.

To provide immediate financial assistance to farmers impacted by COVID-19, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act provided the Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue with an immediate $9.5 billion and the Commodity Credit Corporation with a $14 billion replenishment. Learn more

Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Ison, Clermont County

Sarah IsonI am an animal scientist, researcher, adjunct professor, entrepreneur, rancher, wife and mom.  My professional training is in pre-harvest food safety and epidemiology. In 2018 I started SAI Research and Consulting, LLC with current focus on HACCP plan development for food manufacturing facilities. I also teach microbiology at Northern Kentucky University. 

In 2016 my husband, Josh, and I decided we wanted to expand my family cattle farm and direct market our beef to customers in Cincinnati. Over the last two years we have expanded our operation to include pasture raised poultry and pork. We now ship our premium meats across the US under the name Flourish & Roam raised at 1:Nine Ranch. We focus on high quality Angus genetics for superior flavor and tenderness. Last year we added Kune Kune pigs to our operation as a breed that fits well into a pasture based system and is known for producing high quality, marbled pork. This year we are excited to be adding a large mobile range coop to produce more chicken to meet our customer demands.

Q. What was your biggest takeaway from AgriPOWER?

A. When I started this program I had recently relocated back to Ohio. AgriPOWER was a great way for me to really see a lot of the agriculture that is in Ohio. It was also my first experience with truly seeing how Farm Bureau is a grassroots organization and what that actually means. As a farmer/rancher you have the ability to make a difference in legislation and influencing the decisions that are made that effect how your farm or ranch operates.

Q. What is your favorite memory from your AgriPOWER Experience?

A. The AgriPOWER experience afforded me many wonderful memories, most of which are the friendships I made with other farmers and ranchers across the state. We connect often and discover unique ways we can benefit and help one another in our operations. The most impactful memory with AgriPOWER was our out-of-state trip to Arizona and visiting the San Luis Port of Entry, U.S. Customs and Border Protection. We talked with border patrol officers about what they needed to perform their jobs successfully: increased technology, infrastructure, and people. From an agricultural perspective efficient border crossings are a daily necessity to ensure a labor force is available to help grow food that feeds the world. 

Q. What leadership roles have you participated in since your AgriPOWER experience?

A. Since participating in the AgriPOWER program I am now the District 10 Director for the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association and secretary for the Clermont County Farm Bureau. 

Q. You are currently a member of the AFBF PAL program. What is PAL and can you please share your experiences in the PAL program?

A. AFBF Partners in Advocacy Leadership (PAL) challenges you as an individual to consider different points of view, dig deep into policy development and legislation, sharpens your skills in media training and public speaking, challenges you to share your agricultural story across a wide array of platforms and engage with stakeholders and other industry professionals. The AFBF instructors will identify your weaknesses, break you down and help you grow the most in your strengths to be a stronger individual and agricultural advocate. Every PAL class has a key topic that is of current agricultural importance and relevance that their two-year program will focus on. As a member of PAL Class X which began summer 2019, our topic was trade. We researched and focused on learning about the trade agreements that were taking place between the United States and China as well as USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement). PAL traditionally has four in-person modules over the course of two years: New York City, Washington, D.C., St. Louis and an international trip. Our current program is being modified due to the ongoing global pandemic. Check out my personal site where I share more about my PAL experience and you can connect with other PAL participants.

Q. What is the best book you have read and/or podcast you are listening to?

A. Launching multiple companies in the last several years introduced me to a steep learning curve. I have really been into entrepreneurial podcasts. I also spend a lot of time driving and trained my brain to listen to podcasts on 2x. My current Rolodex includes: Do Business Better – Damian Mason; The business of Agriculture –Damian Mason; Profitable Mindset with Charlotte Smith; Cheeky Scientist Radio; Cattlemen’s Call Podcast; The Vance Crowe Podcast; AgUncensored, Live Your Story — Marlene Eick; The Ranching Brunette; Female Farmer Project; Cowgirl Problems; Hidden Brain; SharkFarmer and Farm To Table Talk.

If you want to hear more about our farming story and marketing directly off the farm, head over to Farm To Table Talk and check out the episode that aired July 26, 2019 – Livestock on Our Side.

Q. What is the best advice you have been given?

A. My answer to this question always seems to change depending on the season of life I am in. Currently, I keep replaying my PhD committee meeting with Dr. Kendra Nightingale at Texas Tech. I remember firmly stating that I did not want to work in sales upon graduation. She assertively stated that everything I do will be in sales even selling myself for a job. Now I am investing into my businesses to sharpen my sales skills to market our meat and grow our ranch business. This has been a tough yet good reminder to change my mindset of how I approach situations.

The late Patrice Arbault, a wonderful mentor, recommended that I search out opportunities to enhance my public speaking skills. This advice is one reason that I applied for opportunities such as the AgriPOWER and PAL programs.

Q. Anything else you want to add?

A. Relationships are invaluable. Find an individual or a group that you can bounce ideas off, learn from, share in the daily struggles (it’s a breadth of fresh air to find you are not alone) and celebrate the victories with. 

If you are interested in applying for the AgriPOWER or PAL program, be prepared to be challenged, be prepared to be deliberate on how you want to get better, know where you want to grow, be bold and step outside of your comfort zone, be open to feedback, and be ready to engage.

I would love for you to connect with me.

Instagram: @beefdrsarah @flourishandroam

Facebook: Sarah Ison

Flourish & Roam – Cincy Beef

Email: [email protected]

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us Sarah. Best of luck with PAL this coming year. As an AgriPOWER Alumni and if you are between 30-45, you are eligible to apply for PAL. Learn more here. 

Partner Spotlight: Kirk Merritt, Ohio Soybean Council

Kirk MerrittI am executive director of the Ohio Soybean Council, the organization that invests the Ohio Soybean Checkoff to benefit soybean farmers, and also the Ohio Soybean Association, the membership organization that advocates for state and federal policy to benefit soybean farmers. Both organizations are governed by boards of soybean farmers who are elected by their peers around the state and volunteer their time working on behalf of their fellow farmers. My role is to work with our board members to advance the strategic priorities of both organizations in ways that benefit Ohio soybean farmers and to manage our staff and operations.

Q. Ohio Soybean Council has been a great supporter of AgriPOWER for 10 years. Thank you!  Why do you continue to support AgriPOWER?

A. Our board members passionately believe in the role that AgriPOWER plays in preparing up and coming leaders to take Ohio agriculture into the future. The comprehensive approach of the program itself, combined with the opportunities it provides participants to network with other leaders during and after the program, makes AgriPOWER a tremendous asset to Ohio soybean farmers.

Q. AgriPOWER works to develop leaders for the agriculture industry. What are the leadership opportunities within the Ohio Soybean Council and how can AgriPOWER Alumni become engaged with your organization?

A. We would welcome AgriPOWER alumni to become more active with our Council and Association. On the Council side, we have an industry stakeholder program called Soy Tomorrow where leaders across the ag industry value chain can get involved. Farmer leaders also can consider running for the Council board, through district elections that happen every summer. On the Association side, we encourage ag leaders and farmers to join as members and get involved in advocating for policies that benefit Ohio farmers.  They also can consider running for the Association board through elections that happen every year at our annual meeting in December.

Q. What values or qualities do you look for in strong future board members?

A. There are several qualities that I think make for a strong board member: Dedication to helping their fellow farmers and to making Ohio agriculture better; Willingness to volunteer their time and devote their energy to the organization; Commitment to learning and continuous improvement to advance our organization and their own farming operation; Belief in the power of organizations like ours to make a positive difference in the lives of farmers; Interest in having fun as a board member!

Q. What outlets do you use to keep up on agriculture trends and information?

A. There are many, including Ohio Ag Net | Ohio’s Country Journal, Ohio Farmer and other ag magazines, Ohio Farm Bureau publications, OSU Extension publications and meetings, Farmdoc articles and updates, Agri-Pulse, Wall Street Journal, many ag companies and co-op websites, USDA websites and our own magazine and newsletters.

Q. If you could give your younger self any professional advice, what would it be?

A. Work hard, have fun, learn from your mistakes, take risks that will help you grow, and put your family first.

Thank you for sharing your time and thoughts with us, Kirk! And thank you to Ohio Soybean Council for being a sponsor of the AgriPOWER program. 


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