Youth ag conference develops future leaders

By Julie Tomascik

A growing Texas demands strong leadership combined with passion and united voices. And the voice of agriculture—today and tomorrow—needs determined, young students.

Those students can develop and hone their skills through Texas Farm Bureau’s (TFB) Youth Leadership Conference (YLC).

The program equips students with leadership skills and economic knowledge, as well as boosts their confidence with goal-setting activities.

“Students who attend the Youth Leadership Conference learn valuable life lessons and tools that are essential for their future careers,” Mia Balko, TFB director of Youth and Urban Outreach, said. “We start cultivating leaders at a young age through this program. Not only are we helping grow leaders, but we are planting a seed for their education.”

The weeklong conference, set for June 10-14 at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, is for students entering their junior or senior year of high school as of August 2019.

The conference introduces youth to constitutional government and the free enterprise system, the solid foundation on which the U.S. was built.

“The program inspires students. It gets them excited about our economic system and the Constitution,” Balko said.

Patriotism, strong economics and responsibility built the country, Balko noted. YLC expands on those concepts for students.

The in-depth look at free enterprise, constitutional government, goal setting and leadership helps students travel the road of excellence.

“Texas agriculture depends on the next generation of entrepreneurs, leaders and advocates. Students will get their start at the Youth Leadership Conference by expanding their knowledge and network,” Balko said. “We want to provide them with the skills needed to make the future better and to be the strongest leaders they can.”

Breakout sessions will discuss the basics of free enterprise, and students will work in teams to develop a business plan and present their ideas to the entire conference.

Students will also hear from motivational speakers and participate in breakout sessions on professionalism, public speaking and money management.

“The skill sets students learn at YLC can be used in their classrooms as they finish high school, through college and as they pursue professional careers,” Balko said. “They have to learn to work with individuals from different cultures, ideas and backgrounds on their business plan and presentation. That’s a real-life application.”

For more than 50 years, YLC has brought hundreds of students together from all across the Lone Star State, creating lifelong friends and developing future leaders.

“The schedule at YLC is intense, but students still have time to make new friends and have a good time,” Balko said. “They establish lifelong friendships with other high school students from across the state.”

Students are encouraged to apply online at

Applications are due May 3.

If selected to attend, county Farm Bureaus can assist with conference expenses, charter bus transportation and registration.

Students who are Farm Bureau members and participate in YLC are eligible to apply for a college scholarship and are able to participate in the Free Enterprise Speech Contest the following fall.

For more information about the conference, visit