Carla Lawrence is Montana Farm Bureau's state Women's Leadership Committee Chair and a member of the Carbon-Stillwater Counties Farm Bureau. She shares her experiences from the American Farm Bureau convention this winter. 

The American Farm Bureau Federation's annual convention is a working celebration of accomplishments and an opportunity to set goals for 2020. It is an awakening of the five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.

Carla Lawrence and Gretchen SchubertOn the first day of the convention and as the newly elected Montana Women's Leadership Committee chair, I focused on the events of the Women's Leadership Committee (WLC ). I starting with a Women in Ag Meet-and-Greet breakfast, followed by WLC networking and regional caucuses, then on to the WLC Annual meeting of the American Farm Bureau Women. I was fortunate to be a voting delegate for Montana, along with immediate past president, Gretchen Schubert. In the afternoon two Communicate, Collaboration and Influence sessions were held followed by a Celebration of Grassroots reception in the Trade Show area. 

On the second day, the Opening General Session was a buzz with the anticipation of President Trump speaking to an audience of farmers and ranchers, over 5,000 strong. President Trump spoke about trade agreements with several countries to include: Canada, Mexico and China, the death tax, reducing government regulations and improving broadband to all rural communities.  The beautiful display of red, white and blue and Old Glory and seeing the President of the United States of America held a feeling of excitement, hope, patriotism and pride.

Although the entire convention was an awakening of the five senses, the trade show may be the best example of sensory overload. Participants visited the trade show booths to see and hear about what was new in the industry, to touch brochures and trinkets as they slipped items into their totes, to see and meet new friends or to get re-acquainted with old friends, to feel the touch of a firm hand shake or a hug, to hear the explosion of chatter, laughter, and conversation and country music, of course. After all, we were in Austin, Texas! We gathered together to smell the freshly brewed coffee and taste the appetizers reflective of the local flavor from several regions. 

The AFBF Annual Convention was a full on three days of hearing educational workshops, break out sessions, board and business meetings, Discussion Meet competitions and opening and closing ceremonies. It was touched with fun and fellowship and learning. It was the smell and taste of business luncheons and trade show receptions sprinkled with local foods, sweet tea and beer and wine. 

It was seeing places around Austin, TX on a tour. It was hearing Jamey Johnson sing at the historic Moody Theatre where Austin City Limits is taped. It was the sight of people from all walks of the farming and ranching industry gathered together to celebrate their livelihoods. It was the sound and strength of many voices and live music and President Trump's encouraging words for the future of Agriculture. 

It was the feeling of sadness and reflection about the passing of Bonnie Duvall, AFBF President, Zippy Duvall's wife. And it was seeing the turquoise bracelets worn by everyone in support of the Duvall family. 

Convention touched our hearts and sent us down the trail, re-energized and with a renewed hope. It was an awakening of the five senses.