Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation members descended upon the state capital in December to celebrate a successful year at the organization’s 2018 Annual Convention.

From young to young-at-heart, from new to the experienced farmer, the annual meeting gave members the opportunity to sample Federation programs, meet staff, fill-up on good food, and fellowship with members from all 82 counties across the state while also saving time to mix in Federation business.

Jefferson County farmer, Mike McCormick, was unanimously re-elected for his third term as president. He addressed membership on the convention’s second night, asking farmers to continue working toward a better future alongside MFBF as the organization continues stand with them through the good and tough times.

“Although the agriculture industry and Farm Bureau has grown and evolved with the times, make no mistake about it, the last crop year has been challenging at best. I have faced these challenges myself, but am comforted in the fact that for almost 100 years, Farm Bureau has watched over our farmers during times like this,” McCormick said.

“Farm Bureau continues to make an impact on farmers lives, and I hope my work as your Farm Bureau President has in some small way made an impact, as well,” he continued. “Just know, despite the hardships, Farm Bureau will always have your back. I am humbled by your resilience, always moving forward, whether you are facing good times or bad.”

“You, the members of this organization, have made such an impact on me. From the friendships and bonds, know that I appreciate you. Farm Bureau appreciates you. Which is why we must always continue putting one foot in front of the other, like all of the farmers and ranchers before us, to accomplish our goals together. With our hands clasped, our heads bowed and a prayer on our lips, we must always continue to farm forward,” McCormick concluded.

The Agriculture in the Classroom program organized by the Women’s Department and Women’s Leadership Committee serves as a key component in teaching school age children the basics of life on the farm or ranch. During convention, as one-hour Agriculture in the Classroom workshop drew an overflow crowd, eager to learn a new lesson to be showcased in local schools.

The lesson incorporated an activity highlighting the Women’s Department’s Farm Book of the Year, “I Wonder Why Horses Wear Shoes” by Jackie Groff.

“I find many of the kids that are in the schools have never seen a horse in person,” Women’s Leadership Committee Member Peggy McKey said. “(They’ve) definitely never touched one. The equine industry is very important to our state. The horse shows bring in many, many out of towners that spend a lot of money here, so we want to encourage that.”

Members of the Women’s Leadership Committee lead the group of educators in making stick horses out of household items.

“I think it’s great because so many kids have no idea what a farm is,” Farm Bureau member Tange James said. “They have no idea where our food comes from. They’ve never actually seen a real horse much less ridden on one. So, this kind of gives them a chance of making not only riding a horse and seeing how horses are, but they’ll get to ride one.”

David Nowell, a teacher in a county vocational and technical school and a Farm Bureau member, agreed with James.

“We’re seeing an increase in the (number of) students that know very little about agriculture,” Nowell said. “(It’s) something they take for granted, so (activities like this) provide us an opportunity to educate them on a whole new field of animals.”

In addition to experiencing a new way to educate students, Farm Bureau members learned about the importance of safety on the farm from Mississippi Highway Patrol Public Affairs Director Capt. John Poulos.

Poulos’ message focused on ways to be safer when traveling on Mississippi interstates and highways.

“I think everyone knows distracted driving is a huge issue,” Poulos said. “Not just in Mississippi, but nationwide. The only way we can combat this is for motorist to make good responsible decisions when they’re behind the wheel, put the phone down, do not text while driving.”

Award winners from across the state were recognized, business was conducted and it proved to be a great fellowship time for all involved.

With agriculture serving as the number one industry in Mississippi, drivers need to be aware of farm equipment on the roadways and the best ways to maneuver around the large machinery while traveling down the road, especially during planting in the spring and harvest in the fall. In 2018, several crashes and even deaths have resulted from passenger vehicles and farm equipment meeting on the road.

“People need to be aware of that,” Poulos said. “You’ve got slow moving, huge pieces of equipment that just cannot move from left to right in a quick manner. Motorists that are traveling behind these vehicles need to be cognizant that you can’t react fast enough when looking down at your phone when you come upon farm equipment.”

Farm Bureau members also had the opportunity to gain wisdom from former MFBF President David Waide as he spoke during the Women’s Leadership Committee’s breakfast.

Waide served Farm Bureau members from 1996 to 2010. Through his leadership, legislation restricting eminent domain was passed by a grassroots initiative to collect thousands of signatures statewide. He also began Farm Families of Mississippi to tell the story of agriculture and farming across the state.

During convention, he spoke about moving Farm Bureau into the future by reaching out to the younger generation of farmers.

“I’d say try to include the younger farmers in everything you do in Farm Bureau (is important),” Waide said. “We’re the lone spokesperson for agriculture nationwide. We have a Farm Bureau in every state and it is just so important to have policy that a group of farmers nationwide put in place. The other thing I’d say to the young farmers is, get involved. If you are not involved in Farm Bureau as a loner you’re not going to have a very effective voice.”

Waide expressed how he would like to see the burdens on the farmer eased up through buying commodities in the United States rather than imports from other countries.

“We’ve seen more imported food and that really bothers me,” Waide said. “I’m not opposed to trade. I think we absolutely have to have trade, but we need to be careful.”

Although conducting business and fellowshipping are important, one of the most exciting parts of convention is recognizing members from across the state with well-deserved awards, McCormick said.

“The 2018 Annual Convention was one of the best meetings the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation has ever had,” McCormick said. “We were proud to recognize top members in our state for their contributions.”