In November, members of the ACE program had their “graduation ceremony” in Bozeman, with some class members opting to join virtually. The ACE program is designed to empower Farm Bureau members to actively advocate on key industry issues and be confident, effective leaders in their County Farm Bureau and local communities. The program emphasizes leadership development, issue education and the engagement of local communities.

In 2019, ACE graduates presented their projects in front of Farm Bureau members during the MFBF Convention and enjoyed a special luncheon and graduation ceremony with selected dignitaries. As with many things this past year, the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed plans for a graduation ceremony.  Despite these challenges, ACE Program Coordinator, Chelcie Cargill shares the impressive perseverance displayed by the 2020 class to overcome and adapt. 

“The ACE Class of 2020 didn’t get the same graduation recognition as other classes. However, that didn’t stop this group from showing up and delivering some high-quality presentations to a group of peers and virtual audience members,” Cargill said. “Each class member gave a 10-minute presentation that described how they would take the resources and skills learned through their time in the program and implement them in their own communities and county Farm Bureaus. The creativity and adaptability these individuals displayed in creating these presentations is great testament to the valuable leaders they will be for their communities and Montana agriculture.”

Although ACE is about communicating agricultural topics to consumers, Pam Converse found what she most gleaned from her year in the program was unexpected: discovering her strengths. “Sometimes you don’t realize your full potential. The ACE training had a way of bringing out those hidden truths and strengths you know you had, but didn’t really know how to use them,” said Converse. “We learned how to take those strengths, and even weaknesses, and compile them and use them for the betterment of agriculture, which is my passion.”Converse explained that her end-of-program project was two-fold: developing a sort of “ABCs” of Farm Bureau, and working to get regional ACE graduates together.

“I really didn’t know who Farm Bureau was until Vice President Cyndi Johnson told me to apply,” said Converse, who is the Pondera County weed coordinator as well as a rancher. “I think it would be beneficial for new Farm Bureau members to have a booklet that might include the district map, Farm Bureau’s beliefs, how to connect with the different committees and how their voting process works, that this organization is truly grass roots.”

She noted that the voting process, that comes from a county and can progress all the way to be voted on the delegate floor at the American Farm Bureau Delegate Session, makes her especially enthusiastic to be a member and thinks others need to realize how grassroots Farm Bureau is.

“I think it’s important to reach out to new members and have a meet and greet at the state convention for new people, with a few of the more established members to visit with them, as well,” Converse said.
As for the second part of her project, since four ACE graduates live fairly close by—Ethridge, Brady and Conrad, she’d like to see them meet regularly to develop new advocacy ideas for their communities and see how they could help each other.

“ACE is one of the greatest hidden gems out there for the cost, the amount of information you receive, the support—it’s been amazing.”

Doreen McClure ranches with her family in Roy. She found ACE provided a vast learning experience and met new friends from all sectors of agriculture across Montana.  “Our group found that our collective focus was more on listening to engage in new conversations and begin to focus on things we all can agree on as we advocate for our causes and bridge the gaps of misinformation and miscommunication,” she said.
McClure’s project was aimed at creating an effective board in any organization.  “I have begun to use my recruitment focus already in two other organizations and will as needed in Fergus County Farm Bureau when meetings are back up and running at capacity.  Doing this project helped me organize effective thoughts to help develop a board that is inclusive, engaged and effective all year round.  My dream board includes one that does not burden one or two members to carry the entire load, but uses the individual talents and desires of members to share the vision of the organization and creates enthusiasm while it accomplishes missions.”

 “ACE was a wonderful experience and the presenters were very inspiring,” McClure said. “We all need introduced to a variety of agricultural advocates, in order to learn and grow.  A.C.E. provided me with many more resources for learning.”

She expressed the sentiment of the other ACE graduates—the need for more ACE. “I wish there was an ACE 101.”