James Lawrence

The 2023 Winter Leadership Experience, the premier event for Ohio Farm Bureau’s Young Agricultural Professionals, offered something for not only YAP members, but also their families, as the event was held at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky.

In between time at the indoor waterpark, over 500 young agriculturalists took part in the jam-packed event that included a fireside chat with some of Ohio agriculture’s most dynamic entrepreneurs who shared with attendees how they have built their brands online. Rebecca Dalton, Dr. Marissa Hake, Dr. Sarah Ison and Kristin Patterson discussed how they use their online platforms to share their farm lives with followers and to grow their direct-to-consumer sales.

“The Iron Cowboy” James Lawrence shared his inspirational keynote message which came from his successful attempt to complete 100 Iron Man competitions in 100 days. Through the journey, Lawrence fought through tremendous adversity, including physical pain, fatigue and serious injuries. He encouraged YAP members to never believe that quitting is an option and ignore the bully in their head telling them they aren’t good enough to succeed. 

An off-site excursion sent Young Ag Professionals to The Chef’s Garden, where third generation farmer Zach Jones conducted an extensive tour of the farm, which uses regenerative farming practices. The Chef’s Garden specializes in micro greens, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. Visitors were able to learn about the farm’s processing facility, food safety lab and research and development system.

Attendees also had a plethora of breakout sessions to choose from at the conference, with experts presenting on topics like how to prepare to buy land at auction, grain marketing, maintaining landlord relationships, diversifying for success, organic farming, and negotiating with confidence.

Winners of the 2023 YAP state contests were announced, with Katherine Wolfe of Stark County winning the Discussion Meet, Brad Weaver of Wyandot County receiving the Outstanding Young Farmer Award and Bailey and Nick Elchinger of Henry County picking up the Excellence in Ag Award.

This annual event is an opportunity to enhance leadership experience while building personal and professional skills. Attendees have the opportunity to network with agricultural leaders, and those making a difference in Ohio’s communities, Farm Bureau and agriculture. Farm Bureau members between the ages of 18 and 35 years old are eligible to attend. The Winter Leadership Experience will make its return to Columbus in 2024.

Photo caption: James Lawrence shared his inspirational keynote message, which came from his successful attempt to complete 100 Iron Man competitions in 100 days.


Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
Mandy Way's avatar
Mandy Way

Way Farms

Farm Labor Resources
I appreciate the benefit of having a strong voice in my corner. The extras that are included in membership are wonderful, but I'm a member because of the positive impact to my local and state agricultural communities.
Ernie Welch's avatar
Ernie Welch

Van Wert County Farm Bureau

Strong communities
I see the value and need to be engaged in the community I live in, to be a part of the decision-making process and to volunteer with organizations that help make our community better.
Matt Aultman's avatar
Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

Leadership development
Farm Bureau involvement has taught me how to grow my professional and leadership experience outside of the workforce and how to do that in a community-centric way.
Jaclyn De Candio's avatar
Jaclyn De Candio

Clark County Farm Bureau

Young Ag Professionals program
With not growing up on a farm, I’d say I was a late bloomer to agriculture. I feel so fortunate that I found the agriculture industry. There are so many opportunities for growth.
Jenna Gregorich's avatar
Jenna Gregorich

Coshocton County Farm Bureau

Growing our Generation
Knowing that horticulture is under the agriculture umbrella and having Farm Bureau supporting horticulture like it does the rest of ag is very important.
Jared Hughes's avatar
Jared Hughes

Groovy Plants Ranch

Groovy Plants Ranch
If it wasn't for Farm Bureau, I personally, along with many others, would not have had the opportunity to meet with our representatives face to face in Washington.
Austin Heil's avatar
Austin Heil

Hardin County Farm Bureau

Washington, D.C. Leadership Experience
So many of the issues that OFBF and its members are advocating for are important to all Ohioans. I look at OFBF as an agricultural watchdog advocating for farmers and rural communities across Ohio.
Mary Smallsreed's avatar
Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

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