YF&R members envision future of farming

Issue Date: March 4, 2020
By Christine Souza
While touring the FoodLink Tulare County food bank in Exeter as part of the California Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference, YF&Rs including Noel Perez of Riverside County YF&R, left, and Marce Evans of Orange County YF&R, right, pack milk, juice, cereal, pasta and other nutritional items to build snack packs for elementary and preschool students.
Photo/Christine Souza
YF&R Conference Chair Daniel Bays, second from left, presents the Committee of the Year award to Sonoma-Marin YF&R members Regina Pozzi, Steven Pozzi and Emma Manoukian.
Photo/Christine Souza

Moving California agriculture forward in coming years will require leadership, engagement and unity among farmers and ranchers, according to speakers at the 2020 California Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference.

California YF&R members—farmers, ranchers and agricultural professionals ages 18 to 35—took part in agricultural tours, heard from speakers and participated in workshops on topics including agricultural advocacy, financial planning, technology and the importance of Farm Bureau membership, during last week's event in Visalia.

In speaking to the conference theme, "Embrace the Past, Envision the Future," California Farm Bureau Federation President Jamie Johansson described how he became involved in Farm Bureau as a YF&R member.

"When I joined Farm Bureau, the older farmers said, 'You need to join Farm Bureau and give back to a community that created these opportunities for you,' and they were right. Now, you are here putting in your time, time away from school or time away from your family farm," Johansson said. "If we're going to embrace the past and envision the future, we have to embrace our community that is agriculture, not just for our commodities, not just our farm, but a bigger purpose."

Johansson described important developments that brought California agriculture to where it is today, such as water and transportation infrastructure, and emphasized the need for agriculture to stay united and strong for the future.

"I'm convinced for the next hundred years, there's going to be a huge role for Farm Bureau because we (in agriculture) defend each other and we all need each other," he said, referring to challenges from legislation, regulations and misperceptions about agriculture. "We need a united voice."

State YF&R Committee Chair Jennifer Beretta added, "It's an important time for us as young farmers and ranchers to make sure that we are being represented, because we are the future of agriculture."

Conference Chair Daniel Bays, the immediate past chair of the State YF&R Committee, told his fellow farmers and ranchers that as they face challenges such as water, employment issues and trade, it is important that they stay engaged in Farm Bureau, the organization that will continue advocating for the state's farmers and ranchers.

"We heard during our farm tours how much these three issues affect day-to-day business, and Farm Bureau does a great job at educating our legislators, policymakers and regulators of how these things impact us," Bays said. "It's important for us to appreciate the investment that Farm Bureau makes in us as YF&R members, by putting on conferences like this and helping develop you as leaders in Farm Bureau, in agriculture and your communities."

Conference attendees agreed.

"YF&R is a very important part of the Farm Bureau culture," said Paul Leimgruber of Imperial County YF&R. "It helps set the tone for the rest of your Farm Bureau career. YF&R is an excellent way to start getting involved in the Farm Bureau—plus, it's a lot of fun."

As part of the event, YF&R members toured agricultural businesses throughout Tulare County, including in Exeter, Ivanhoe, Tulare and Visalia.

Brodie McCarthy, a member of the YF&R state committee from Lake County, described the agricultural tours as having "a range of agriculture and even non-ag related industries."

"We visited where irrigation components are made in a brass foundry and also went to the Kaweah Dam facility, which aren't necessarily things you would see in your local community," McCarthy said.

Vegetable farmer Noel Perez of Riverside YF&R, who said he is relatively new to YF&R, attended the conference to see a different part of the state.

"Taking part in the farm tours is like exploring. I haven't been to Visalia before, so it was interesting; I didn't realize how much land was here and how much citrus was here," Perez said, adding that much of the conference value came from "the connections I've made and the people I've met."

Shasta College student Danielle Nuttall, a collegiate YF&R member in Tehama County, said she loves taking part in YF&R and attending the annual conference.

"I joined YF&R so that I could get involved and meet people my age that were also super-passionate about agriculture," Nuttall said. "I love the experience. I love getting to see agriculture from different counties across the state because it's different in every county; I've learned so much about things I've never known, and I've met a lot of friends."

At an awards banquet that closed the conference, the YF&R program presented its Star YF&R Award to Shay McCluskey of Butte County for her involvement with her local YF&R committee, agricultural community and in educating students about agriculture.

The Sonoma-Marin YF&R Committee was honored as Committee of the Year, and other county YF&R committees were honored for excellence: Kern County YF&R for involvement in Harvest for All; Butte County YF&R for the most innovative event; and Sonoma-Marin YF&R for community involvement.

The conference also hosted the Collegiate Discussion Meet, won this year by Fresno State student Austin LaSalle of Firebaugh, who earned a $1,250 prize and a trip to the 2021 national YF&R conference.

As first runner-up in the contest, Fresno State student Jasmine Flores of Atwater received $750. Other finalists in the contest were Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student Armando Nevarez of Holtville and Fresno State student Andrew Skidmore of Atwater. Each earned $500.

Fresno State won the team competition and a $250 prize. Prizes for the contest were sponsored by Rabobank.

(Christine Souza is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at csouza@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.




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