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Taking the lead

Jacob Hansaker
Jacob Handsaker, a Hardin County Farm Bureau member and former Iowa Farm Bureau Young Farmer Advisory Committee chair

Leadership has been a pillar of success for the Iowa Farm Bureau since the first farm leaders founded the organization in 1918 and leadership development continues to be a focal point in the programs we offer today.

Iowa Farm Bureau’s young farmer program helps beginning farmers find success in the ever-changing business of agriculture. This new generation of Iowans are returning to the farm, using their technological skills and knowledge to address the environmental and global challenges that agriculture faces today.

The young farmer program offers Iowans between the ages of 18 to 35 the opportunity to network with other young farmers; develop their communication and leadership skills; learn more about the Farm Bureau organization; and prepare for a career on the farm. The growing program now attracts more than 500 young farmers from across the state to the annual Young Farmer Conference.

“There is a lot of knowledge that gets passed around, and friendships made. There’s also the support that farmers can get as a collective group, and right now, young farmers need all the help they can get,” says Jacob Handsaker, a Hardin County Farm Bureau member and former Iowa Farm Bureau Young Farmer Advisory Committee chair.

The Iowa Farm Bureau also developed the Ag Leaders Institute to provide an opportunity for leaders who are new to Farm Bureau to learn about cutting edge issues, leadership skills to address those issues, and to build a statewide network of leaders.

Graduates of the Ag Leaders Institute are Iowans who care about the future of agriculture and want to make a positive impact in their communities, many of whom assume leadership roles within Farm Bureau, on their local school boards, as county supervisors, legislators and also as leaders of the commodity organizations.

“My husband and I have seen the benefits of being involved in our community. It helps your farm, and people know that you’re becoming a better person because of it. I think it’s almost crucial to your farm as you are starting up,” says Beth Rachut, an Ag Leaders graduate and Mitchell County Farm Bureau member.

Other leadership development opportunities include the Iowa Farm Bureau’s F.A.R.M. Team, or Farmer Advocates Reaching Mainstreet, a unique program designed to help farmers in their communication and outreach efforts at the local, state and national levels. A range of training options are available for interested farmers to help them connect with stakeholders and build trust and understanding of today’s farming practices. The group has more than 167 participants and growing while outside organizations continue to contact Iowa Farm Bureau to conduct F.A.R.M. Team training for them.

As farmers continue to face local and global challenges in agriculture, Iowa Farm Bureau will continue to develop critical farmer leaders to help address those challenges.