Montana Farm Bureau leaders attended the national State Program Leaders Conference April 30-May 4 in Washington, D.C. The conference brought together chairs and staff of the Women’s Leadership Committee (WLC) and the Promotion & Education Committee. The theme was "Educate. Empower. Engage." Check out what that means to our guest blogging, member attendees!

"Educate. Empower. Engage."

My name is Beth Blevins. I am a large animal veterinarian. People frequently become large animal veterinarians because they really want to be ranchers. So I married a rancher, Craig Blevins, 25 years ago! We raise mostly registered Black Angus cattle with a few club calf prospects thrown in for variety, a daughter Michaela, 21, who is taking animal science at Montana State University and a son Ethan, 18, who is graduating from high school in June and plans to attend Montana Tech in Butte this fall, pursuing degrees in Petroleum Engineering and Chemistry.

I became involved with Farm Bureau when a member, Bill Meadows, invited us to an annual meeting. When Craig and I bought our own place in 1997, the previous owner had insurance with Farm Bureau. We became members then, but didn’t realize it. We attended that meeting with Bill and quickly saw the need to become involved and what a vital avenue of involvement Farm Bureau is. Craig was chair of the state Livestock committee for several years and I am District I Women’s Leadership chair, past state Animal Health committee chair and was a committee member and chair for the national Animal Health committee. Attending the Women's Communication Boot Camp in Washington, DC helped me find my voice.

For farmers and ranchers to preserve their livelihood and lifestyle, we must share about what we do with our non-farming and ranching friends, neighbors and customers. Since less than 2% of the population has a connection with agriculture these days, that sharing is a monumental task. Taking the time in our busy schedules to juggle one more time commitment seems unreasonable, but we must do it or someone else will who doesn’t understand what we do and wants to vilify it.

Education is a primary focus of the Women’s Leadership Committee. As a large animal veterinarian, much of what I do in my work is education, coming alongside my customers to help make things better for ranchers and their animals. Being involved in Farm Bureau provides more resources for connecting with our ultimate customer, helping me to be a liaison between ranchers and people who are interested in where their food comes from.

The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture has materials to help in that education. Knowledge empowers, gives us answers for the questions consumers are asking, and equips us so that we may confidently engage the consuming public, our representatives in government and even our neighbors and friends to help them understand what we do and to recruit them as allies in our struggle to continue what we’re doing to feed the world.

We can’t become active for just one issue every once in a while. We must stay alert to opportunities and seek out those opportunities to engage in promoting what we do. And may it truly be said that the best is yet to be!