GFB News Magazine

Speak up, don’t give up

Posted on September 4, 2022 12:00 AM



By Jay Stone

The 2022 Georgia Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) Summer Leadership Conference, held July 13-16 on Jekyll Island, offered participants ways to overcome adversity, share their stories and break down barriers. They also had time for visiting the beach and the island’s other attractions, lessons in the Georgia Ag Experience Mobile Classroom and lots of fellowship. A total of 343 YF&R members, their children, and guests attended.

Keynote speakers offer encouragement

Utah cowboy Braxten Nielsen shared his journey from a debilitating rodeo injury to walking again. Nielsen was slammed against the chute railing when the bronco he was riding bucked as the gate opened during a 2017 rodeo. He sustained multiple spinal fractures and was left paralyzed from the waist down. Nielsen tracked his course of rehabilitation therapy over several months, noting that incremental improvement over time can result in big change.

Throughout his presentation, Nielsen emphasized using available resources, wowing the GFB crowd with his auctioneer voice and his turkey call as he walked around the stage. 

“We’re all put here on this Earth with talents and abilities,” Nielsen said. “We need to share them.”

Nielsen encouraged the young farmers and ranchers to maintain a positive mindset, work hard and surround themselves with supportive people.

“When life puts a scar on you, it’s giving you a legacy to leave in life,” he said. “Hard work will never cheat you.”

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Braxten Nielsen / photo by Logan Thomas




TikTok sensation Will Brinkley, the “Tarheel Farmer,” discussed how to leverage social media’s reach in agriculture’s favor. Brinkley has more than 318,000 followers on the video sharing app, where his humorous clips put farm life on display. 

He noted statistics that show a ratio of 258 people for every farm in Georgia. He praised Farm Bureau for its work in support of agriculture. 

“If I had to go try to reach all those people, I wouldn’t get much farming done,” said Brinkley.

“We’re farmers and we’ve got to advocate for our own products and our own markets, and we’ve got to do a better job for the next generation and give everybody a voice. We don’t have to reach everybody. We just have to get it out there and let it spread. And maybe we can get our voice. A lot of us have a voice now.”

Brinkley said it is important to share benefits derived from agriculture.

“You’ve got to be positive about ag and farm life. Positivity is the number one thing,” he said.

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Will Brinkley, known as the “Tar Heel Farmer,” urges farmers to tell their ag story online.
/ Photo by Logan Thomas


Overcoming communication challenges

Lori Tiller, a public service associate with UGA’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, led the GFB group through exercises to help bridge generational communication gaps. She discussed how individual perspectives are shaped by historical events, culture and societal developments that occur during a person’s formative years from ages 14-21. 

One generation’s first mobile communication device might have been a flip phone, while another started with a smart phone. Or, one generation might say the 9/11 attacks are the historical event that had the greatest impact on them, while another might say the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion.

“When we’re talking about those formative years, that 14-21, we know that’s a time in life where there is drama every single day,” Tiller said. “So, those things that stick, we’ve got to figure out what those are for that to be considered that event that changed their life.”

Tiller suggested that communication barriers between generations can be overcome by engaging others with questions about their memories from those formative years, including:

• What is the most historical event of your lifetime?

• Which leader or famous person impacted your generation?

• How did this experience affect you then, and how does it still affect you today?

“There are societal events that cross all generations – where people were, what were they doing when that happened?” Tiller said. “For it to have an impact on you, you have to remember what it was like prior to that event. The younger you were for 9/11, while 9/11 may have impacted you, those of us that traveled a lot before 9/11, the stark change in how to get around the country before and after 9/11 is something you’re never going to forget. So, when you’re in one generation and another generation doesn’t understand … they didn’t experience it the same way. That’s one of the things you need to always remember is how it continues to impact you.”

In a breakout session titled “Handling Sticky Situations,” presenter Sharon Justice from the Executive Farm Management Program, offered by multiple southern Extension services, defined sticky conversations as those where outcomes are important, viewpoints differ and emotions run high. Justice advised using simple language, sticking to facts and resisting overgeneralization.

A key way to approach this is to use sentences that begin with “I” instead of sentences that begin with “You,” Justice said. 

Farm/Business operations

The conference also offered educational sessions on marketing your farm, running for public office, accessing H-2A laborers, regenerative bioscience, building county YF&R programs and debunking agricultural myths. 

In the marketing your farm session, Jessica Akins of Oak + Willow Creatives, Tara Green of GreenGate Farm and Georgia Farm Bureau Certified Farm Markets Coordinator Kelly Henry offered tips on using web-based tools, questions to consider when marketing farm products, use of social media and other topics. 

“You are your brand,” Akins said. “We are walking billboards for our farms. Think about how you want to be marketed to, and whether you should take the approach to educate [customers] rather than sell.”

In the regenerative agriculture session, Herb Young of Squeeze Citrus in Thomas County talked about the process of restoring soil ecosystems and microbes with nutrition, inoculants and cover crops to provide nutrients for the crop and, in the case of his orange grove, nutrient-dense fruit.