BOZEMAN, Montana--The FUSION Conference brought more than 1,000 volunteer leaders from three program areas--Promotion & Education, Women’s Leadership and Young Farmers & Ranchers--to learn, share and grow together to build a stronger Farm Bureau. Thirty-six Montana Farm Bureau members attended the conference, which was held March 3-6 in Jacksonville, Fla. The event offered great speakers, breakout sessions and evening activities that provided opportunities for Farm Bureau committee leaders to grow and network with members from across the country.

This was the first time Bonita Cremer, chair of the Montana Farm Bureau Promotion & Education Committee, had been to FUSION. “All of the sessions offered were impressive, and there was so much to choose from. I wish I could have attended them all.”

The Melville rancher noted that the state chairs of the P&E Committee were able to idea share. “It was very helpful to learn what other state Farm Bureaus are doing. One interesting activity in some states is their reaching out to culinary schools and organizing on-farm tours for future chefs.”

One consumer engagement workshop that resonated with Cremer was promoting agriculture in a changing landscape. “We talked promoting agriculture and promoting our safe and healthy food supply, but addressed the challenges of doing that in 2023. Many people buy groceries online and have them delivered or order them from an app and pick the up curbside, that limits the ability of farmers and ranchers to have face-to-face interactions with the public. It really struck me that we need to be more creative, open our minds, and develop new ways to let consumers know that we’re providing them with the best food options.”

Teddi Vogel from Worden serves at a district chair on the MFBF Women’s Leadership Committee. Vogel said the best part of the conference was the networking. “You get to spend time visiting with folks in such different areas of agriculture and learn so much from those networking sessions. I met some tobacco farmers from Kentucky, who sent me a video from their farm, which right now is very green.”

One of the sessions on mental health focused on women who do a real balancing act with family, career, volunteering with groups like Farm Bureau and more. “The presenters explained that we often put on a brave face showing that you have it all together, you’re not alone,” said Vogel. “The two women presenters showed how to look at your life commitments as rubber balls and glass balls, showing which ones you can drop and not break. There were good tips applicable to everyone in any situation.”

“One of our speakers, Florida Congresswoman Kat Cammack, was wonderful as she talked about how to make your message to your elected officials actually stick so they remember you and your concerns,” Vogel said. “Also, it was impressive watching Andee Baker compete in two rounds of the Collegiate Discussion Meet. She represented Montana very well.”

MFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee Chair Nick Courville agreed the networking proved to be a valuable part of the event. 

“We had a training exclusively for state YF&R chairs where we talked about why we’re here and how to gain confidence in what we do as leaders. Representatives from Ag West Farm Credit presented workshops on team building and working with people. Meeting other state chairs and members of the AFBF YF&R Committee in person will prove very valuable when we want to visit about issues with different state Farm Bureaus in the future,” Courville said.

Twenty-seven of 36 Montana Farm Bureau members who attended were either involved in state YF&R or the Collegiate Farm Bureau members.