Downtown Des Moines was bustling on the last weekend of January as more than 500 young farmers from every corner of the state came to town for Iowa Farm Bureau’s annual Young Farmer Conference. The conference seems to get bigger every year and featured several standing room-only educational seminars on topics ranging from succession planning and managing high interest rates to beekeeping and preserving summer produce.

When I ask Farm Bureau leaders what prompted their involvement in the organization, most of them mention the Young Farmer Conference in some fashion. The conference serves as a bridge of sorts for young people involved in farming or associated industries as they transition from college into the early stages of their careers. The thing that’s really inspiring is how those who have benefited from the conference want to give back and make it even better for the next wave of their soon-to-be peers. Finding leaders who give more than they take is the hallmark of any successful organization, and Farm Bureau is no different.

Young farmers today face many challenges, just as they always have, including access to land, high input costs and lack of working capital. Bankers often say that one advantage that young farmers have is sweat equity — their willingness to work hard and long hours to achieve their goals.  

I’d add that they can also benefit from a network of peers eager to help each other succeed through programming offered by Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer program. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for next January.