Monday, Jan. 22

Tom Vilsack Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack gave the opening address during the closing session of the 105th American Farm Bureau Convention in Salt Lake City. The key theme of his speech was the importance of sustaining farms and farmland in the United States.

“I don’t think the country can stand the loss of small and mid-size operations,” said Vilsack. Opportunities are available to farmers who are willing to pursue value-added commodities, USDA programs, and sustainability practices for their operations to help the economic viability of small and mid-sized farms. He provided examples of farmers who have used USDA programs to sustain their farming operations during tough economic times. 

Vilsack said he wants there to be opportunities for the next generation of farmers. “I want there to be excitement and opportunity discussed” for the future of agriculture and our rural communities, said Vilsack. He stated that rural America is the backbone of our country and is vital for our success as a nation.

Greg Hardin, from University of Michigan, was the keynote speaker of the closing session. He discussed how to face fear and self-doubt. Leadership development is not only how to lead others, but also to lead yourself, said Hardin. 

You will have to evolve to prepare yourself for the challenges ahead. Leaders are needed every day in agriculture. “If not you, then who? If not now, when,” asked Hardin. The opportunity for leadership is now. 

“If you don’t know how to follow, you don’t how to lead,” said Hardin. 

“Become the world’s greatest expert on one subject, yourself,” Hardin continued. Commit to small improvements of yourself every day. “Self-love and accepting yourself, flaws and all,” is an important step to becoming a better leader and more self-confident. 

“Human beings are the only creatures with the ability to decide they are not going to be the same today as they were yesterday,” said Hardin. “Don’t change for anyone else, change for yourself.”

Sunday, Jan. 21

Bill Patterson 105th AFBF ConventionThe first session of the 105th American Farm Bureau Convention began with a keynote speech from American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. He emphasized the importance of passing a new farm bill for America’s agriculture industry. He highlighted the many success stories of Farm Bureau through the works of our members. Ohio Farm Bureau President Bill Patterson represented Ohio by carrying the state flag across the convention stage, pictured above.

Patterson also was one of the featured speakers who presented on “The Next Big Thing in Growing Farm Bureau Membership,” along with Vice President James Henderson from Colorado. President Patterson spoke about how Ohio Farm Bureau has been using a strategic plan to drive the organization forward. Ohio Farm Bureau is focused on finding solutions to help farmers achieve their best farm future. The strategic plan has helped Ohio Farm Bureau to continue to grow and meet the needs of members through a technology report from the new Ag Intelligence Service as well as Our Ohio magazine, and other member benefits that are continually evolving.


Katherine Brown participated in the next round of the Discussion Meet contest after advancing to the Sweet 16 yesterday. Today’s topic of the Discussion Meet contest was the challenge of obtaining capital for young farmers starting their farming operations. We congratulate Katherine on a job well done representing Ohio Farm Bureau’s Young Ag Professionals in Salt Lake City!

The keynote speaker for the afternoon’s session was Jack Uldrich who spoke about navigating new frontiers. “Entrepreneurs and innovators are transforming our world,” said Uldrich. Thinking differently about the changes in technology and adoption are key for a future in agriculture, providing the example of the new John Deere and Starlink partnership and utilizing artificial intelligence. His tips for navigating an ever-changing landscape in agriculture included: 

  • Expect the unexpected.
  • Explore the unknown.
  • Embrace uncertainty.
  • Unlearn old habits.
  • Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
  • Listen to unconventional voices.
  • Question the unquestionable.
  • Think of the unthinkable.
  • Take time to think.
  • Think twice.

Technology is changing so fast that we have to be able to change with the rapid pace of innovations to stay ahead of the game.

“AI is a critical technology,” said Uldrich, but it has to be used correctly. 

“Do you want to win the future or not? Be skeptical and keep asking questions,” Uldrich added. While the future is unknown, keep moving forward,  asking questions, and working with others to achieve a successful future.

In addition, Ohio Farm Bureau was recognized at the meeting for its support of the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, receiving the Scholar Award as one of the six state Farm Bureaus with the highest total donations to the Foundation within their membership groups.

Ohio also qualified for the Apex Award, given to state Farm Bureaus that have increased total contributions to the foundation by 10% or more over the previous year, and the Leader Award. State Farm Bureaus are recognized with a Leader Award when each of their board members donates at least $50 to the foundation.

Saturday, Jan. 20

Saturday at the American Farm Bureau Convention was a busy day of recognition and competition.

Katherine Brown (left), of Stark County, competed in the first two rounds of the Discussion Meet contest. She has advanced to the Sweet 16 for the Discussion Meet and will continue further competition on Sunday.

Nick and Bailey Elchinger (right), of Henry County, competed in the Excellence in Agriculture competition giving a presentation about their roles in agriculture, while Brad Weaver, Wyandot County, represented Ohio Farm Bureau in the Agricultural Achievement Award as the organization’s 2023 Outstanding Young Farmer. Congrats to all of this year’s participants for making The Buckeye State proud!

Eleven Ohio Farm Bureau counties were recognized for their County Activities of Excellence Awards:

  • Books and Barns Ag Literacy Project, Trumbull County. An initiative created to increase agricultural literacy in youth through “Storytime with a Farmer,” the construction of book barns and donation of accurate ag books. 
  • Building for the Future of Agriculture, Muskingum County. Interactive displays about careers in agriculture were made available to youth at the county fair. 
  • Farm Bureau Day at the Fair, Adams County. A member benefits-focused community collaboration provided attendees access to free health care screenings, food, games and a tractor show. 
  • Farm to Fork Goes to Town, Fayette County. Participants visited educational stations and collected locally sourced products to create butter boards. 
  • Local Agriculture Activity Book, Auglaize, Logan, Mercer, and Shelby Counties. An educational coloring and lesson book outlining county agricultural activities was distributed to local youth. 
  • Piggies, Pie, Play Ball, and Putt-Putt, Clinton County. A program to help at-risk youth learn responsibility, ownership and leadership skills through raising a hog for the county fair.
  • Shine in the Show Ring, A Leadership Development Livestock Show for Individuals with Special Needs, Henry County. An alternative livestock show allowing individuals with developmental disabilities to partner with junior fair exhibitors to exhibit an animal. 
  • Tomato to Table, a Breakfast on the Farm Event, Fulton County.  An event to help urban and rural consumers understand how modern farms operate, produce food and continually improve water quality.

Tomorrow, the opening session of the convention will be held along with another day of competition for the Young Farmer and Rancher awards. Additionally, Ohio Farm Bureau President Bill Patterson will be participating in a panel discussion on growing Farm Bureau Membership. Stay tuned for more updates from Salt Lake City at the 2024 American Farm Bureau Convention.

Friday, Jan. 19

More than 170 Ohio Farm Bureau members and staff are traveling to Salt Lake City to celebrate this past year’s achievements and represent Ohio member interests as Farm Bureau policy priorities are set for the coming year at the American Farm Bureau 105th Annual Convention.

Eleven Ohio county Farm Bureaus were chosen to participate in the County Activities of Excellence program, and Young Agricultural Professionals Brad Weaver, Nick and Bailey Elchinger and Katherine Brown will be competing in the national Outstanding Young Farmer, Excellence in Agriculture and Discussion Meet contests, respectively.

AFBF President Zippy Duvall will give his annual address to Farm Bureau members during the opening general session of the convention on Sunday, Jan. 21. This year’s keynote speakers will include global futurist and best-selling author Jack Uldrich, also on Sunday and best-selling author and former associate athletic director of student counseling at the University of Michigan, Greg Harden, during closing ceremonies on Monday.

“New Frontiers” is the theme of AFBF’s 105th consecutive convention, an event that offers attendees unique insights on the policies and perspectives that will affect farms, ranches and agribusinesses in 2024 and beyond.

Ohio Farm Bureau partner, Nationwide, is a sponsor of this event.

Daily updates

View the full convention schedule and follow the action as it’s happening on Ohio Farm Bureau social media channels: Facebook, YouTube and X, using #AFBF24.

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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