In July, I was honored to be chosen to participate in the American Farm Bureau’s 12th Women’s Communications Boot Camp.  I was joined by 14 other talented and hard working farm and ranch women from around the country. We all arrived in the beautiful city of Washington, D.C. on a Sunday in late July in a downpour which closed roads and slowed traffic to a crawl.  (My husband was loving my departure just prior to harvest!)
None of us knew quite what to expect but we had all diligently finished our “homework” assignment of writing a speech on a subject from one of three areas - the Farm Bill, the Endangered Species Act, or Trade.  I chose the Endangered Species Act due to the close encounters of the Grizzly kind that we’ve been experiencing in my neck of the woods (or prairie). That speech was to be delivered first thing Monday morning.  
Boot Camp training was held in the American Farm Bureau Federation headquarters in D.C. (within easy walking distance of the Smithsonian museums).  The training is aptly named because you hit the ground “learning”. The individual presentations were recorded for critiquing from our coaches. Lindsay Calvert, Managing Director for Leadership Development, AFBF, delivered several pertinent sessions covering content, messaging, and delivery dynamics when speaking with an audience and written, recorded or in-person media encounters.  Johnna Miller, Director of Media and Advocacy Training wrapped up our Monday with Media Training and how to avoid the pitfalls of being led astray during an interview, using negative terminology or phrases, and neglecting to get to the point of your message. The end of day one of Boot Camp was celebrated with a wonderful dinner in a recently renovated area of the bay called the Wharf.  The weather was a wonderful mix of warm and rain and those of us who came from drier climates really appreciated the rain!
Day two of Boot Camp was an intense session of individual media training where each participant had to participate in a television interview, a radio interview, and a newspaper interview.  While we weren’t engaged in an interview, we had the opportunity to attend briefings conducted by AFBF staff in the areas of Regulatory Reform, Trade Issues, and Farm Policy Issues….the same topics we were originally tasked with creating speeches on. During lunch, expectations for the “final exam” were covered and Johnna Miller presented some tricks and techniques to use when advocating for agriculture using social media.  After social media training the Boot Camp Class departed AFBF Headquarters for Congressional and Agency visits.  Most of my classmates visited their Congressman or Senator. Since I had just recently had that opportunity, I chose to visit with Senator Daines' Agriculture Legislative Assistant, Dan Gerig.
After Congressional visits, it was time to hit the homework and tweak our original speeches to be delivered, from memory (yikes), incorporating everything we had learned, the last morning of Boot Camp.
Our class had the opportunity to be mentored by Johnna Miller, Lindsay Calvert, and Elise Stoddard.  We were honored to be addressed by President Duvall and Executive Vice President, Julie Anna Potts.   We were blessed to have in our company Women’s Committee Chairperson Sherry Saylor, Robin Kinney, Managing Director of Member Engagement, and Maggie Good, the Assistant Director of Member Engagement.  These women could dance circles around us and they inspired us to work hard, learn much, and put our Advocacy Gears in motion!
My message to you, my fellow women in Montana Farm Bureau, is to take advantage of this opportunity if it presents itself.  Apply to attend Boot Camp! It’s an experience you will cherish.  Many thanks go to the Montana Farm Bureau Women’s Committee for their financial assistance to attend this working event!  D.C. is not an inexpensive place to learn but it is worth every penny.

Cyndi farms with her husband, Ken, near Conrad.