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Joining forces for young farmers and rural communities

Posted on Feb 8, 2017

As a generation of farmers gradually transfers farm management and responsibilities to the next, it’s important the handoffs are smooth and successful.

It’s not just about finding someone else to “take over the farm” or bringing in new farmers to feed their communities, the nation and the world. It’s also about maintaining strong and vibrant rural communities, with good schools and first-class community resources—places the next generation finds as attractive and viable options to put down their own roots and build their homes and lives.

Preparing the next generation of agriculturalists to become school board members, volunteer firefighters, Sunday School teachers, 4-H leaders, county commissioners and civic group members takes financial and human capital investments.

Farm Bureau developed young farmer programs for individuals and couples ages 18 to 35 with initiatives that help young men and women become stronger leaders and more dynamic voices in their local communities. They strive to accomplish these goals through activities that promote leadership development, networking opportunities, educational opportunities and awards programs.

Scott Christmas is the Young Farmer and Youth Programs Coordinator at Kentucky Farm Bureau. He says that agriculture is not limited to just those who till the land, but young people engaged in ag-related occupations are also encouraged to participate.

“A great part about the Young Farmers Program is that even if you’re not going back to the farm after college or other experiences, there are other agribusiness positions that are an important part of agriculture,” said Christmas.

To help support opportunities for young farm families and agriculture professionals, Farm Credit Mid-America made a $100,000 donation, to be split equally among the four states in its territory —Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. The funds support young farmer leadership development conferences, educational tours and collegiate activities hosted by Farm Bureau. Farm Credit announced the relationship at Farm Bureau State Leadership

Development Conferences in January.

Jonathan Carter is the Assistant Vice President of Farm Credit Mid-America’s own young and beginning farmer program, which has disbursed more than $200 million in loans to more than 750 new operations since 2014. Carter says that the donation was made because Farm Credit’s emphasis on developing the next generation of farmers and ag professionals fits hand-in-glove with Farm Bureau’s priorities.

“Our purpose is to secure the future of rural communities and agriculture,” he says. “Since Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer Program is similar in mission and values to ours, we felt we could really support their efforts and work together in helping develop leadership skills with those who desire a future in agriculture.”

Christmas said that Farm Bureau appreciates the financial gift from Farm Credit, but even more, the good working relationship between the two agricultural cooperatives.

“What I find so special about the relationship we have with Farm Credit is that they really recognize the need for their people to be involved in their communities too,” he says. “They’re always so willing to help, and they always show up in full force.”