2021 KFB Young Farmer Virtual Leadership Conference

Posted on Mar 4, 2021
KFB Young Farmers Advisory Committee Chair Heather Graham interviews KFB President Mark Haney, KFB 1st Vice President Eddie Melton, and KFB 2nd Vice President Sharon Furches during KFB's 2021 virtual Young Farmers Leadership Conference

Roundtable Q&A with leadership team highlights a jam-packed virtual event

While virtual events have been the order of the day for most of the past year because of COVID-19, continuing the process of keeping members informed is still an important part of Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB), and the 2021 KFB Young Farmers (YF) Leadership Conference did just that.

This year’s virtual conference included a roundtable discussion with KFB President Mark Haney, 1st Vice President Eddie Melton, and 2nd Vice President Sharon Furches, as well as a legislation update and remarks from Federation Executive Vice President Drew Graham and KFB Mutual Insurance Company Executive Vice President and CEO John Sparrow.

The 2021 State YF Advisory Committee Chair Heather Graham led the virtual meeting and offered a word of thanks to those attending as she began the conference.

She said hosting this event by way of video cameras was a bit daunting at first, but the end result was a big success.

“It took me a few minutes to get used to it, but knowing we were keeping our young farm families informed on issues was very gratifying to me as the committee chair,” Graham said. “I want nothing more than to get helpful information to our members, and I feel as though we were able to accomplish that goal at this year’s virtual conference.”

Drew Graham said, during his remarks to the conference, KFB understands the value of the Young Farmer Program and it is of the utmost importance to the organization.

“Many of you are carrying on traditions that have been a part of your heritage for generations, while others have decided to begin a tradition all your own. Either way, this industry and this organization depends on you to help move agriculture forward in the 21st century,” he said.

Sparrow shared with attendees a little of his history with the company and the strength he sees in the organization and its members.

“Our strength is out in the communities and from people like you, our young farm families,” he said. “In my years of service to this organization, I find my strength in KFB’s community advocacy and its county leadership; uniquely in 120 counties, with thousands of members advocating for a better life in their community and for Kentucky.”

Legislative update

KFB Director of Public Affairs Jeff Harper shared information about this year’s General Assembly session and some of the legislative issues that will affect farm families and the agriculture industry. He also answered several questions that had been sent by viewing members.

“One bill that we have been following, that we just adopted policy in support of during our last annual meeting, is Senate Bill 3, which would take the (Kentucky) Agricultural Development Fund and the Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation and remove those from the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy and place that under the administration of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture,” he said.

Harper emphasized that this particular bill has been filed for three or four consecutive sessions, but it is expected to pass in this session. Other important topics under consideration by the General Assembly include a one-year budget, something that is a carryover from last year’s shortened session due to COVID-related issues, and funding for the Broadband Deployment Fund, a KFB-backed bill which created the fund and passed in the 2020 General Assembly without the benefit of revenue.

Harper said Governor Beshear’s budget proposal includes a requested $50 million for that fund, something KFB has publicly supported. 

Executive Q&A Roundtable

During the executive roundtable, KFB leadership shared a little about their journeys through Farm Bureau and some of the highlights of their careers. Graham led the discussion and presented several questions to each one.

Haney shared one of his most memorable moments during his years of involvement in the organization.

“One of my most memorable moments came on March 2, 2012, a day tornadoes moved through all of our state and left heavy damage, particularly in Morgan and Magoffin Counties,” he said. “We formed a plan at the state office and got to those areas as quickly as we could. The local Farm Bureau office had survived, and we gathered there trying to help as many people as possible.”

Haney shared that the one instance which really stood out in his mind that day was seeing the county secretary talking to a member who was obviously upset. But the secretary remained calm and helpful.

“I would find out later that, at that time, she also knew she had lost her own home but was still there being of assistance to others in their time of need. That made me so proud to be a part of this organization, and I'll never forget that day,” he said.

Each of the leaders had interesting memories they shared, including how they began their service to Farm Bureau through varying types of leadership programs offered.

Melton discussed his very first Farm Bureau meeting and the incentive it provided that has led him through a long-time involvement in the organization.

“I learned what Farm Bureau was doing for agriculture during that first meeting, and I thought, if I'm going to spend my career farming, I needed an advocate representing me, and working in my best interest,” he said. “It sparked an interest for me and that has continued over the years.”

The three of them also emphasized the close relationship they have with each other and how beneficial that has been.

“The three of us have known each other for a very long time and we've been friends for a long time, both personally and professionally,” Furches said. “It's really an honor to work with them now, and for all of us to have come up through the programs of Kentucky Farm Bureau like we have, we've all been very, very fortunate in that respect.”

KFB leaders closed the discussion by encouraging the young farm families to be involved and stay involved. Haney encouraged them to take up the challenge of being leaders and strong agriculture advocates in their communities.

“Often it is the little things we do in our counties and in our local communities that make a big difference over time, and I encourage you to do those things because it’s those leaders who are giving of themselves that make a better Farm Bureau, better programs, and better communities,” Haney said.

To see the 2021 Young Farm leadership Conference in its entirety, click here.