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Young farmers, ranchers contribute, grow in ag

By Julie Tomascik

A group of young farmers and ranchers returned from the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) FUSION Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, with a renewed focus and a larger network within the agricultural community.

More than 1,000 participants, including Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) young farmers and ranchers, attended the annual conference.

Among them were Cody and Melody Kneupper of Kendall County, Ben and Jessica Rumbaugh of Wharton County, Jesse and Karri Wieners of Carson County and Austen and Rachel White of Wilbarger County.

James O’Brien of Bee County also attended the conference for a graduation ceremony from AFBF’s Partners in Advocacy Leadership program, and he led a breakout session on marketing. McKenna Bush of Brazos County participated in the Collegiate Discussion Meet.

AFBF Vice President Scott VanderWal and motivational speakers Redmond Ramos and Jim Morrison addressed the attendees.

The group also attended breakout sessions to hear from industry leaders on agricultural technology, entrepreneurship, social media and consumer engagement, among others.

“The breakout sessions allowed us to learn from other young farmers and ranchers and agricultural experts,” Melody Kneupper, TFB’s Young Farmer & Rancher Advisory Committee chair, said. “The conference helps encourage, motivate and train young Farm Bureau members to better communicate agriculture’s story and to get other young people involved in the organization.”

That grassroots leadership will strengthen state YF&R programs, including Texas’ program.

“We are coming back more equipped and excited to put these ideas into practice in Texas,” she said.

The conference was about more than presentations, though. It was an opportunity to develop leadership skills and network with other farmers and ranchers from across the country.

“I enjoyed meeting other farmers and ranchers from the different states and learning about their operations,” Austen White said. “I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone in this leadership role, and I’m enjoying the opportunities and personal and professional growth.”

To wrap up the four-day conference, the Texas group toured local dairy farms and Seneca Foods, one of the largest processors of fruits and vegetables in the U.S.

“As farmers and ranchers, we are familiar with the growing and harvesting steps of the food process, but we’re not as familiar with what happens next,” Melody said. “This tour stop gave us that opportunity to ask questions and learn more about our food.”

But the learning won’t end with the conference. The young farmers and ranchers are leaving their mark on Texas agriculture and building a legacy to pass on to the next generation.

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