More than 500 young Iowa farmers packed Prairie Meadows’ Events and Conference Center earlier this month to hang out with each other and an organization that’s turning 100 years old this year.

The occasion: Iowa Farm Bureau’s annual Young Farmer Conference, a two-day event with industry tours, keynote speakers, educational sessions, evening entertainment, networking opportunities, meals and free childcare (which, by itself, would be enough to convince me to drive a couple of hours in any direction).

“I’ve been attending Iowa Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer Conference for several years now, and every year it gets better and better,” said Floyd County farmer (and Iowa Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer Committee Chair) Laura Cunningham. “We’ve outgrown numerous venues, as more young farmers learn about the opportunity – many through word of mouth from past attendees.”

Like Farm Bureau, the Young Farmer Conference is constantly evolving (with new content, experts and entertainment each year) to continue to appeal to the latest crop of young farmers.

“I think the reason this conference is so well received is because it’s planned by young farmers,” said Cunningham. “Our state advisory committee is comprised of 18 individuals who share a passion for agriculture and face the same challenges as the attendees.”

In that way, the conference is a perfect microcosm for Farm Bureau itself. While Iowa Farm Bureau has grown and changed a lot in the past century, the organization’s focus on farmers and their grassroots voices (which drive the organization’s public policy positions, as well as the programs and services it offers members) remains as rock solid as it was when 72 county Farm Bureaus gathered in Marshalltown and unanimously voted to create the Iowa Farm Bureau back in 1918 (you can read other highlights from Iowa Farm Bureau’s 100-year history in our new interactive timeline). Through years of careful listening to members, Iowa Farm Bureau has developed programs that help them grow, like our farm transition program, Take Root (a direct result of feedback from our young farmer members).

While Farm Bureau’s values haven’t changed in 100 years, the farmers it serves (and their needs) have changed dramatically.

So it’s not just longevity or habit that brings young farmers back year after year ( records indicate that precursors to the Young Farmer Conference, like the Junior Farm Bureau, started as early as the 1930s). It’s a commitment to innovate, to change and meet the evolving needs of today’s farmers - and to do that by having farmers, themselves, lead the way.

By Zach Bader. Zach is Iowa Farm Bureau’s Digital Marketing Manager.