Farm Bureau members from Audrain County were among more than 530 young farmers attending the Missouri Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) Leadership Conference February 10-12. The conference, held at the Lake of the Ozark’s Tan-Tar-A Resort, gave young farmers a chance to learn, meet new and old friends, and have fun.
The event is organized by Farm Bureau’s state Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee for farmers ages 18-35. Get acquainted sessions connect those attending with others from the same regions of the state, and more than a dozen mini-seminars cover topics from utilizing cover crops and using drones, to cooking and landscape painting. For the first time, discussion contests were held at the conference. Brian Worthington, of Dadeville, was selected the winner after two rounds of discussions. He won $500 from the MFB Foundation for Agriculture and $500 from Ford Motor Company. Worthington will compete at the national level this January in Nashville. Jason Vandivort, of Elsberry, placed second and Dustin Stanton, of Centralia, was third.
The underlying message from conference speakers was get involved in promoting and protecting agriculture. Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst, a farmer from Westboro, talked about his experiences explaining modern agriculture to those far removed from rural Missouri. Hurst is a past YF&R committee chairman, as are past and current Missouri Directors of Agriculture Richard Fordyce and Chris Chinn. Both Fordyce and Chinn spoke to the group about how saying “yes” to new challenges has opened possibilities for them.
Featured speaker Master Sergeant Cedric King earned a standing ovation after his talk on tackling challenges. King served in the U.S. Army for 17 years and was a Ranger in Afghanistan when he lost both of his legs from an improvised explosive device in 2012. Since then, he has overcome his own obstacles by running marathons and competing in an Ironman triathlon. He compared accepting challenges to a pencil being sharped. No matter how difficult the obstacle, moving beyond sharpens you into a better, stronger person.
Outgoing Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee Chair Grant Jones, of Knob Noster, wrapped up the conference by asking attendees why they were there. He urged them to take the experience beyond the weekend to promote their own stories about agriculture and farm life. New committee chair Clarissa Cauthorn, of Thompson, will lead the committee this year. The MFB YF&R Conference is hosted by a committee of up to 30 young farmers. More than 100 businesses and individuals sponsor the conference with Missouri Farm Bureau Insurance Companies the presenting sponsor.