By Carla Lawrence, Carbon/Stillwater County Farm Bureau

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of attending my first American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Annual Convention held in Phoenix, AZ, Jan. 6-10. I currently serve on the Women’s Leadership Committee (WLC) for the Montana Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF), which is chaired by Gretchen Schubert (Yellowstone County).   I represent District 4 along with Lisa McFarland (Yellowstone County) and both of the aforementioned ladies also attended the AFBF.  District 4 includes Big Horn, Carbon, Stillwater, Sweet Grass and Yellowstone counties.

Women’s Leadership Regional Caucuses

Convention began for me with Women’s Leadership Regional Caucuses.  Gretchen Schubert, Lisa McFarland and I attended the Western Caucus.  States represented, not a comprehensive list, included Montana, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and others. The Western Caucus is fortunate to have Montana’s Lillian Ostendorf, who serves as one of two regional representatives to the AFB-WLC. Sherry Saylor, Chairman of the AFB Women’s Leadership Committee also attended the meeting.

During the Western Caucus Session, leaders in their respective states shared activities and accomplishments for the past year. Read closely and jot down some notes, because there are some great ideas for your county farm bureaus in here!

  • Shooting Farm Bureau T-Shirts to the audience during rodeos/fairs

  • During the County Fair having a “Where does my breakfast come from?” event for children. The participants go from tent to tent or barn to barn to learn about chickens, where they are given an egg; to learn about pigs, where they are given bacon, precooked to be warmed up at the end of the tour; to the dairy barn, where they are given milk; to the AgTent where they grind wheat, which is added with water and pancake mix. All the cook able items are then cooked up for breakfast.

  • Provide a recipe to kids and have a scavenger hunt for them to find the ingredients in the recipe

  • The Ronald McDonald House, making meals for family who are staying at the house while their child is being treated for serious health conditions.

  • Safety Training, for ATVs and First Aid

  • Using the My American Farm program (AFBF) website

  • Legislative Day at the Capitol, Calling on the Capitol, where Farm Bureau members interact with legislator and legislative staffers and hand out Farm Bureau policy books

  • Ag Fest at the Capitol- WLC members make appointment with legislators/legislative staffers

  • Organize an annual Women in Agriculture conference

  • Design note cards for a fund raiser

  • Have a candy bar fund raiser, all candy bars are wrapped up and a certain percentage of the candy bars have money in them, (35 of 100) sell for $5 each

  • Provide grants for poor counties to do ag projects (up to $1,000)

  • Purchase ag appropriate books and share in classrooms and to read to children

  • Work with veterans in agriculture

  • Working on growing the program through recruitment/membership

  • Have a quilt auction and encourage a different county create the quilt for the auction

  • Have an activity during Ag Day (in March) annually

  • Have classrooms adopt a farmer/rancher

After the activities report states shared ag issues that are significant in their state, such as water rights, endangered species, border issues, bison and others.

Annual Meeting of the American Farm Bureau Women

Voting Delegates were seated in a designate area. Gretchen Schubert, Montana WLC chair and myself were the two voting delegates for Montana.  I was excited to be able to serve in this capacity.

Sherry Saylor, AFBF chairman for the WLC provided her annual address to the participants.  Her remarks were centered on Faith, Family and Farms as it related to “another trip around the sun.” She shared her thoughts about the past year in travel and what she learned through her visits with others across the United States.  After her remarks, the business meeting was conducted. Sherry Saylor was re-elected as chairman and Isabella Chisholm was re-elected as Vice-Chairman.

After working through the business agenda, The American Farmers Mom of the Year award for 2016 was announced.

This award is sponsored by Monsanto and this year Mary Courtney from Kentucky was the American Farmers Mom of the Year. Mary Courtney addressed the session and did a great job expressing her gratitude and appreciation.  A few take away items from her address were that she and her husband got involved in Farm Bureau because someone took the time to ask them, someone invited them to join.

She said she is proud to advocate and promote the pride of our profession.