Generation Bridge Brings New Leadership Opportunities to Specific Member Group

Posted on Sep 22, 2021

Brainchild of Vision 100 Committee sets historic precedence with new program 

As Kentucky Farm Bureau’s Centennial Year came to a close in 2019, the Vision 100 Committee was created at the direction of KFB President Mark Haney.  This committee, comprised of KFB volunteer leaders from the local level, as well as staff from both the Federation and the Insurance Company, was convened to help guide strategic planning for the future of the entire organization.

The committee immediately went to work, and through its efforts formed a new program as one of its first initiatives, focused on members between the ages of 36 and 49. Generation Bridge, as it is known, will help this specific demographic stay engaged in Farm Bureau through leadership and advocacy training and opportunities.

The new program is comprised of a core leadership committee established with one representative selected from each district through an application process. Upon the first official meeting of this leadership team in January, KFB Second Vice President Sharon Furches, who co-chairs Vision 100, called it an historic day for the organization.

“It's historic because it's a new program that we’ve never had before, targeting an entirely new group of leaders,” she said. “We literally, looked around at other state Farm Bureaus to see if we could find anything like we thought we wanted, and we could not. So, this is somewhat of a one-of-a-kind program that will enable this specific group of members to be involved to help lead this organization into a new century of existence.”

It hasn’t taken long for the new program to gain attention not only within the state but at the national level, as well. During his recent trip to Kentucky, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall called Generation Bridge “very exciting.”

Furches said it’s very validating to hear such accolades from Duvall but the support KFB leadership has shown is a testament to how much faith they have in this new venture.

“Just the fact that we have this kind of support in our own organization, both financially and and the dedication of resources, I've certainly felt like I could give any amount of time that I needed to, to the organization of Vision 100 and now Generation Bridge, as well,” she said. “That is such a great feeling when you know leadership is behind this, especially a new endeavor of this sort, and the Generation Bridge core leadership group knows our executive committee completely has their backs as we run with this new program.”

The executive team met with the new group during their inaugural meeting offering that support and encouragement for the important work they are about to embark upon.

“We are at a time in this organization when it is as important as ever to keep our members involved, informed, and moving forward to provide the future leadership we will need as we continue into our second century,” said Haney. “But Generation Bridge will be much more than that. It will help those members involved to become better community leaders, something that will benefit the entire Commonwealth.” 

Director of National Affairs Kyle Kelly is serving as the staff lead for Generation Bridge. He said being a part of such an initiative is one of the most important things he has done in his time at Farm Bureau and in community service.

“This program is so unique and so original that we have the opportunity to be a model for other state Farm Bureaus to emulate,” he said. “The sky is the limit for the kinds of achievements this group will make in the future for this organization and for our agricultural industry.”

Furches said her hope is that Generation Bridge will become prevalent in every county in much the same way as the Young Farmer Program and the county Women’s Committees.

“This first year, this committee will really focus on getting the word out across the states as members attend the district meetings and they will speak on behalf of the new program, and in a sense, recruit,” she said. “Eventually we would love to have a Generation Bridge committee in every county, which would then feed the state program for KFB.”

Furches emphasized that not every county group will be alike, but their mission will be the same as they recruit in their respective areas and work toward their advocacy goals.

“We are already focusing on having some legislative conversations with experienced lawmakers who are active in the General Assembly right now,” she said.  

During the first meeting of Generation Bridge’s core leadership group, three members were chosen to serve as an officer team including Amanda Gajdzik of Shelby County as chair, Tammy White of Union County, the vice chair, and Sarah Beth Guffey from Clinton County as secretary.

Messages from the officer team

Amanda Gajdzik: I think one of the most important aspects of Generation Bridge is to fill a gap and truly encourage those 36-49 to stay engaged in Farm Bureau while developing their leadership abilities, enhancing their advocacy for our industry, and improving their operations. I think Generation Bridge will only make KFB stronger as a whole.  If we can better support those that are entering the prime of their operations, they can be stronger leaders for their communities, our industry, and our organization. 

Tammy White: I feel the most important aspect of Generation Bridge is providing meaningful opportunities within the Farm Bureau organization, for the individuals outside of the young farmer and women's programs to participate and advocate for agriculture. Generation Bridge will provide Kentucky Farm Bureau with the next generation of leaders. The Bridge program can help guide and prepare individuals for leadership positions, not just within Farm Bureau, but also within our own communities. Being a strong advocate for agriculture is important at the federal and state level, but it is equally important at the local level, as well.

Sarah Beth Guffey:I believe the most important aspect of Generation Bridge is connecting members of the agricultural community with leadership and educational opportunities. The membership that represents the Generation Bridge demographic are farmers and members of the agricultural community who are established in their farming operations and careers. They’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. Having a means to communicate those experiences with other producers is important. It’s my hope that this program gives them that avenue to communicate, learn, and build relationships with other likeminded individuals. While the program is in its first year, and we have many hopes for it, I believe that its lasting effect is in its name - a bridge for the next generation of Farm Bureau members. I hope it helps foster ideas, inspire leadership, and continue to help Farm Bureau advocate of behalf of Kentucky agriculture.”