Aaron Thomas will bring his inspiring message of overcoming tragedy and making a positive difference to the 97th annual meeting of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF), which is scheduled for Dec. 1-2 in Des Moines.

Thomas is the son of the late Ap­­lington-Parkersburg football coach, Ed Thomas, who inspired countless student-athletes and others and helped rally the community after a devastating tornado. A year after the tornado, Ed Thomas was fatally shot by a former player with mental health issues.

Aaron Thomas, now coach at the northeast Iowa school, will bring a message of hope, said Barb Lykins, IFBF community resources director who chaired the annual meeting program committee. He will challenge members to make a difference in their own lives, in their families and in their communities, she said.

"We think Aaron’s inspirational message of overcoming tough times and making a difference in our Iowa communities will resonate well with our members," Lykins said. "That’s especially true in this period of lower commodity prices when many farmers are facing a more difficult financial situation."

Incredible journey

In his presentations, Aaron Thomas tells of his family’s incredible journey of showing uncommon strength and courage in its darkest times. He also brings a message of understanding and forgiveness. Thomas and his family embraced the family of the man who had killed Ed Thomas, saying that’s what the legendary football coach would have wanted them to do.

Denny Presnall, IFBF executive director, said Aaron Thomas really represents everything that Farm Bureau stands for: determination, strength of character and caring for family and the community.

"As I’ve gotten to know Aaron over the years, I couldn’t be more impressed with him," Presnall said. "He was a young man thrown into a very difficult situation, but handled it with dignity, fortitude and grace, and continues to do that today. I’m certain he’ll inspire Farm Bureau members with his remarks and challenge us all to make a positive difference."

The 97th IFBF annual meeting will again be held at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center, formerly known as the Veterans Memorial Auditorium.

In addition to Thomas, the two-day event will feature several innovative and thought-provoking speakers and nine different "hands-on" educational seminars to help Farm Bureau members navigate important issues like conservation and water quality, rural transportation, busting food production myths with real science, and new technology and innovation in agriculture.

In addition, there will be a number of young farmer events, board elections as well as the elections of Iowa delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation annual convention in January 2016 in Orlando. For a full itinerary and more information, click here.