Candid Conversation | KFB Second Vice President Sharon FurchesPosted on Aug 16, 2023
Candid Conversation presents a discussion about the topical issues related to Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) priorities, the agricultural industry, and rural communities, in a question-and-answer format. In this column, KFB Second Vice President Sharon Furches discusses the many learning opportunities available to members throughout the summer months.
KFB has a long history of summertime learning opportunities for members in all age groups. What are some of these and how beneficial are they to members, as well as the organization?
Summertime offers us endless opportunities on the farm for continued learning. Student projects, teacher workshops, new production ideas, and a chance to share with friends and neighbors. KFB has hosted leadership training sessions for educators and students for many years and it’s so valuable to the organization. We all stay engaged in the Ag conversation and keep up to date with issues and news.
It has often been said a well-informed advocate makes for better advocacy. How important are these learning opportunities available to KFB members in their efforts to advocate for our ag industry and all that goes to support it?
It certainly helps them be better informed and speak more confidently about the issues. KFB is the Voice for Kentucky Agriculture, but we also want our members to think even broader into their local communities as well as federal issues. KFB provides a great platform to develop and hone our advocacy skills. Our Generation Bridge, Young Farmer, and Women’s programs do this particularly well.
Education for a new generation has always been a top priority at KFB. We have a long history of giving scholarships each year. Could you share a little about those efforts?
KFB is a strong supporter of higher education on many levels. One of our state priority issues saw success this year when the legislature allowed student earned KEES money to be used at proprietary trade schools as well as colleges and universities. KFB worked hard to lobby for this much-needed change. We also devoted two of our own state-wide scholarships to be made available to students planning to attend a trade school as well. We heard consistently from our membership that this was important to them and are encouraged by this addition. It’s exciting to award scholarships to deserving young leaders on behalf of our organization.
How valuable do you think our scholarship program is to students and local organizations giving scholarship money to students throughout the state?
Our scholarship program has a very rich history, and we are so proud to continue the funding opportunities for this. Our county Farm Bureaus shine brightly when it comes to helping students with their higher education. Several counties have unique ways to raise funds for their own scholarship program and help so many students on the local level. These programs are well-known throughout the state, and we are so happy to promote them for our students and their families.
We have also begun to see a second generation’s involvement in IFAL. What is the history of that program, and would you elaborate on the significance of having this type of leadership program?
I first learned of IFAL as a member of the state Young Farmer Committee (many years ago!) when we helped promote it to high school students in our own county. This year I personally met the 2nd generation of some KFB families participating in this program. It’s been providing team building, networking, lifelong friendships, leadership skills, and fun for years now. The staff at UK, Murray State, and KFB do an amazing job and the counselors make sure it is a week to remember.
Why are our young farmer programs along with Generation Bridge such critical components of KFB and this state’s agriculture industry?
These programs keep every age group engaged in Ag policy and issues while helping them build their skill set and confidence. They stay connected to their network of friends and colleagues and can build on that for years to come. These programs are vital to the success of KFB and growing leaders within our organization. The skills they develop are relevant on so many levels for these young and excited leaders.
KFB has been holding teacher workshops for many years. Do you think our support of teachers and education, in general, surprises some who think we are only about agriculture and insurance?
These workshops have been a huge success from the beginning. KFB and our Women’s Leadership Program in particular, have always promoted Ag education both inside the classroom and on the farm. Our Farm Bureau women are very well known in their local communities and across the state as some of the strongest advocates for Ag education. They are also active in consumer education letting the public know where our food comes from and how it gets from the field to the table.
Many members get a chance to participate in the Certified Farm Market and Beef Tours each year. How valuable is it to these members to see other agriculture operations in various locations across the country?
Both tours are great favorites of our membership, particularly those directly involved in beef production or farm markets. They get new ideas and see different production practices they can bring back to their own farm. These opportunities open doors for coming home with new and innovative ways to promote Kentucky agriculture.