The last year has been tough for many farmers and ranchers across Mississippi, especially those who are young in their farming career. To help provide resources to these young farmers, the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation hosted more than 300 of them at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi for the Young Farmers & Ranchers 2020 Leadership Conference in February.

The theme of the conference, “Stronger as One” challenged attendees to build relationships with each other so there will always be someone to lean on in hard times.

“We hope this conference gave our young farmers reassurance that there are people on their side,” MFBF President Mike McCormick says. “These people are our future, and it’s important we continue investing in them.”

Highlights of the conference included presentations from Certified Speaking Professional Michele Payn, former MFBF YF&R Committee members Noble and Fayla Guedon, Mississippi State University Agricultural Economics Department Head Dr. Keith Coble, an agricultural lender panel and a social featuring Mustache The Band. Members also had the opportunity to participate in breakout sessions based on their farming area.

Second year YF&R Committee members and row crop farmers Hank and Leslie Harrington believe attending each session of the conference provides members with new knowledge to bring back to their farms, but the best benefit of the conference is the opportunity to network.

“Sharing with others what we have experienced and hearing what others have experienced is one of the most important things we’ve gotten out of this,” Hank Harrington says. “That’s why it’s so important to us to get younger members involved.”

“YF&R has given us such great experiences and people we can reach out to if we have a problem or issue,” Leslie adds.

The community the YF&R program provides young farmers throughout the state is second to none, according to second year YF&R Committee members Jay and Amber McBride.

“We only met most of our fellow committee and YF&R members two years ago, but they have become some of the first people we lean on,” Amber McBride says. “We can talk to each other about farm problems and everything in between.”

Another benefit of becoming involved with the YF&R program and attending the leadership conference involves gaining knowledge of the policy and political process at the state and national levels.

“YF&R allows us young farmers to get involved in the political side of farming,” Jay McBride says. “You learn what the issues are and who’s batting for you in Washington. It’s just good to know what’s going on in the political world that can impact you at home.”

The entire YF&R Committee highly encourages other young farmers to participate in the YF&R program.

“There is constantly something going on in the world that can affect agriculture,” YF&R Chairman Matt Hammons says. “It’s always good to gather with fellow Farm Bureau members to learn how we can help each other.”