Nurturing the Seeds of Leadership: Insights from the AFBF YF&R Conference

May 2024

Written by Katie Quincey and Matt Fisher, YF&R Class X Leadership Group

The 2024 American Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers Conference (YF&R), held in Omaha, Nebraska, was not just an event; it was an immersive experience that left a lasting impact on attendees, particularly the Class X Leadership Group.  

At the conference, we participated in discussions on leadership, generational farming and having the kind of work ethic grandparents had as well as networked with other agriculturalists from across the country and forge relationships that will push our careers to the next level. Our group came home with valuable insights and a renewed sense of purpose.  

Among the myriad of memories and lessons, perhaps the most resonant one was the emphasis on the timeless value of perseverance and dedication in farming. One attendee recounted a poignant story shared during a workshop about overcoming adversity in agriculture, highlighting the importance of resilience in the face of challenges. We were captivated by Rick Rigby’s keynote address which inspired us to grow our influence that will help us make a lasting impact on the future of agriculture. 

What surprised many was the sheer diversity of perspectives and experiences within the farming community. Engaging with fellow attendees from across the United States revealed a rich tapestry of approaches to agriculture, each deeply rooted in its unique regional context. During lunch each day, we were tasked to sit with individuals from across the country that are involved in the same industry as us. This networking experience was fun and eye opening to see how one industry can be so diverse. 

The conference provided a platform for industry experts, seasoned farmers, and emerging leaders to share their knowledge and insights. Topics ranged from innovative farming techniques to navigating the complexities of generational transitions in family-owned farms. We spent an afternoon experiencing different farm tours, from the Omaha Zoo to CLAAS tractors. After spending the day in breakout sessions, watching the collegiate discussion meet and hearing from motivational speakers, we explored the Durham Museum and Kiewit Luminarium at night for social events. 

One standout skill that resonated with our group was the art of effective networking. Learning how to forge meaningful connections with peers and industry stakeholders is not just a valuable asset in personal growth but also in fostering collaboration and driving innovation within our own operations and county Farm Bureaus. I personally enjoyed learning from other states about the programs their local and state Farm Bureaus participate in.  

For some, the seminar sparked a newfound appreciation for the intergenerational wisdom embedded in farming traditions. It challenged preconceived notions and prompted a deeper reflection on the enduring values that underpin their agricultural heritage. We were able to hear from industry leaders about projections in their specific industry that will impact costs and production.

As with any enriching experience, the conference left attendees with many questions, perhaps chief among them being how to navigate the evolving landscape of agricultural technology while preserving the fundamental essence of farming traditions. 

To future YF&R members that are considering attending similar conferences, the resounding advice would be to seize the opportunity with both hands. Engage wholeheartedly, embrace diverse perspectives, and cherish the connections forged, for it is in these moments of shared learning that the seeds of leadership and innovation truly flourish. I know I am looking forward to attending the Fusion conference next year in Denver and hope to see you there! 

In conclusion, the AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Conference was not just a gathering of minds; it was a testament to the enduring spirit of agriculture and the limitless potential of its stewards. As the Class X Leadership Group returns to their respective farms and communities, they carry with them not just knowledge, but a renewed sense of purpose and a commitment to nurturing the seeds of leadership for generations to come.