Bobbi Lindemulder is our District Operations Program Manager. She advises the farm planners on staff because she's been there as a beef farmer herself. A good chunk of her job is to help educate new and up and coming farmers. She does this through Focus on Farming, WSU Cultivating Success Program, Young Farmers & Ranchers through the Farm Bureau, and through NABC classes.
Recently, she was at an event to encourage young people to follow their entrepreneurial dreams of running a farm. Here's her report:
The American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers program includes both men and women between the ages of 18-35. The objective of the Young Farmers & Ranchers program is to provide leadership in building a more effective Farm Bureau to preserve our individual freedoms and expand our opportunities in agriculture.
At the national level, one member described it as, “The YF&R program can be used to develop leadership skills & achieve personal growth that our members can take back to their homes where they have the most impact as leaders in their rural communities.”
In Washington, there are 14 counties with a Young Farmers and Ranchers chapter. On Saturday, March 10th, at the historical Swiss Hall in the heart of the Tualco Valley near Monroe, the Snohomish County chapter kicked off their inaugural meeting.
Led by Snohomish County Farm Bureau Board Member Leah Werkoven, young farmers from Snohomish and surrounding counties came together to break bread, meet each other, and just see what this was all about and how young farmers fit into the big ag picture of today.
They were a variety of cattle and dairy farmers, small livestock owners, livestock breeders or those who showed their livestock at fairs, in FFA or in 4H. Like their parents, many worked off the farm. There were those who farmed full time. There were crop growers and vegetable producers, those who worked for state or federal agencies, those who worked private companies, those who worked for a family business, some in agrotoursim, those who had their own business, those who worked in something related to an ag support industry, hay growers, teachers, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. All of whom want to carry on the legacy of our rich farming history.
As an ice breaker, a tenacious game of bingo was played. The bingo card held a plethora of questions only known if you got out of your seat and talked to people you didn’t know and find a match to the question (such as “shows at the fair”, or “can milk a cow”). It was a great way of introducing folks as well as seeing what kind of people were in the room!
Dinner was catered and people were encouraged to sit by others they didn’t know. There was never a silence in the room, as you moved around you heard a lot of the same conversations as in any ag venue with farmers and food - Crops, livestock, feed..but the younger chatter too - trucks, music, jobs, spending time with friends. There were very few who didn’t have at least some type of background in farming or were new to farming and wanted to learn more.
Kristen Hinton, the Young Farmer and Rancher Coordinator for Washington, provided a great overview of the program and what it does. There’s even a representative for the Collegiate Chapter at WSU, Pullman!
Support agencies like the Snohomish Conservation District, Farm Service Agency, and WSU Extension were on hand to meet and greet or provide any assistance needed.
The evening was rounded out with a couple of shared stories of history, resiliency, and grit. Two multi-generational farmers, Andy Werkhoven (of Werkhoven Dairy) and Bob Ricci (of Bob’s Corn), filled the room with inspiring accounts of the beginnings of their modest family farms, their passion and respect for family, the hard work it took so long ago to develop the farms, and the pride and honor to move it to the next generation in a way that would make their family proud.
Farmers and Ranchers promotes leadership of young people. It provides a venue to talk about issues, as well as community assistance projects for people in need in their communities. It may be gleaning crops for the food bank or helping someone in their community down on their luck. During the horrible fires in the Okanogan, the Washington Young Farmer and Ranchers chapters came together for a service project to assist a rancher who lost everything by rebuilding fences.
There was no real ‘agenda’ at this meeting. Simply put, Leah said “we want to support the next generation of farmers and ranchers in the county by hosting an evening of food, fun, and fellow farmers”.
The hope is that this community of new farmers will build off each other by developing relationships, becoming mentors for the younger members, and assisting each other in being successful in whatever farming endeavor they choose.