AFBF Convention transforms GFB attendees
Transform was the key word of the 99th Annual American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Convention held Jan. 5-10 in Nashville, Tennessee, at the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center. More than 200 Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) members traveled to Music City for the convention, which included a rousing speech by President Donald Trump - the first U.S. president since George H. Bush in 1992 to speak at the AFBF convention – encouraging words from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and a motivational talk by Reba McEntire.
“I’ve been attending AFBF conventions for many years and I think it was one of the best yet. Our members had the historic chance to hear from a sitting president who supports farmers and has pledged to support rural America,” GFB President Gerald Long said. “The workshops offered were top-notch and will help our members as they advocate for agriculture back home in their communities and handle the day-to-day running of their farms.”
GFB members competed in the AFBF Young Farmer & Ranchers events on Jan. 6 and 7. Guill Kellogg, GFB’s 3rd District Young Farmer Chairman from Cobb County, started Saturday off with a bang by running faster than 76 other runners to capture first place in the Farm to 5K. Kellogg braved early morning temperatures in the teens to run the 3.1 mile race through Nashville’s Two Rivers Park in 20 minutes, 16 seconds.
“If you want to know why I ran so fast I wanted to get out of the cold,” Kellogg was overheard joking with someone. Make no mistake, his win wasn’t luck. He ran cross country and track at Chicago State University. He regularly competes in 5ks and trains about three days a week by running 3.1 miles.
Hancock County Farm Bureau members Josh and Skye Pennino competed in the Excellence in Agriculture event by delivering a presentation describing their cattle and hay farm, their off-farm jobs as a livestock auctioneer/relocation specialist (Josh) and assistant district attorney (Skye) and
their ag advocacy efforts as Farm Bureau members. The couple are first-generation farmers.
Pike County Farm Bureau member Will Godowns talked his way into the third of four rounds of competition in the AFBF YF&R Discussion Meet. Will had this advice for any GFB Young Farmers thinking about entering the 2018 contest: "Don't worry about how you think you talk or about the audience or what others might say. Just look at it as being in a small group of friends talking about
agriculture. Don't let it be something you're afraid of."
Having competed in the GFB discussion meet event for several years, Godowns says his favorite thing about the event is being able to sit down with other people and discuss how issues affect others on their farms.
“I’m a product of the GFB Young Farmer Program,” Godowns said. “Competing in this event through the years has developed my speaking and analytical skills. All of the Farm Bureau Young Farmer programs I’ve participated in such as the trip to Washington and Futures & Commodities Trip to Chicago have helped me in my career as a manager of a cow-calf operation.”
Thomas and Alicia Harrell of Madison County Farm Bureau represented Georgia in the AFBF YF&R Achievement contest. The Harrells raise broilers, beef cattle and hay. The first-generation farmers also have a business making and installing livestock handling equipment for cattle producers and county/school livestock arenas.
While none of Georgia’s young farmer contestants advanced to the final round of competition, they all did an excellent job of representing Georgia agriculture. Greg and Rose Hartschuh of Ohio won the Excellence in Agriculture Award; Martha Smith of Colorado won the Discussion Meet. Russell and Amelia Kent of Louisiana won the Achievement Award.
“I’m very proud of how our young farmer contestants represented our state in each of their events,” Long said. “Their passion and commitment to agriculture was evident in their presentations and interviews. I came away knowing the future of Georgia agriculture is in good hands.”
Georgia also had a strong presence in the IDEAg Trade Show where Hall County Farm Bureau was among 24 county Farm Bureaus nationwide selected to display exhibits about their innovative county programs as recipients of AFBF’s County Activities of Excellence (CAE) Awards program.
HCFB showcased its Hall Grows Real Opportunities With Students (GROWS) program, which successfully installed Ag in the Classroom curriculum in six schools during the 2016-2017 school year to reach more than 700 students last year. The Hall Grows program included 21 county volunteers who visited the classrooms of 27 teachers.
HCFB received $2,250 in prize money to further its program. HCFB was one of four states to be selected in the 3,001 to 5,000 county membership group. Awards were also presented in the following membership groups: membership of less than 1,000 members, 1,001-3,000 members, more than 5,001 members, and for collaborative multi-county activities regardless of membership size.
“GFB was proud to have Hall County Farm Bureau showcasing their Hall GROWS Ag in the Classroom program as a recipient of the County of Excellence Award in the trade show,” Long said.
The Georgia Peanut Commission also participated in the trade show handing out snack packsof peanuts that kept convention attendees from getting hungry.
During the opening general session, GFB was recognized as an Awards of Excellence state for demonstrating outstanding achievements in all four member program areas recognized - advocacy; engagement/outreach; leadership/business development; and membership value.
Country music superstar, actress and designer Reba McEntire talked about the work ethic she
learned growing up on a cattle ranch in Oklahoma and her faith while having a “living room” style conversation with AFBF President Zippy Duvall and his wife, Bonnie, during the closing general session.
“You need three things in life – a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone,” McEntire said. “You always have to have something to look forward to – that’s the wishbone. Being a woman in a man’s world you’ve got to have a backbone. I grew up in a man’s world [on the family ranch]. I knew I had to work harder to get ahead. I just worked harder and didn’t complain. I understood the rules. I did have plenty of men to mentor me. If you don’t have a sense of humor I feel for you. You can’t take things seriously. You have to be able to laugh at yourself. When I realized my son, Shelby, could laugh at himself was one of my proudest days.”
Speaking of her faith, McEntire said, “My heart goes out to anybody that doesn’t know the Lord because with the Lord you’re never alone.”