Young members of the South Dakota Farm Bureau received honors at the American Farm Bureau’s national Young Farmers & Ranchers Leadership Conference held February 8-12 in Phoenix. 

Two South Dakota State University students competed in the national Collegiate Farm Bureau Discussion Meet and advanced to the “Sweet 16” round, one step away from the “Final Four” round where the winner is chosen.  Bailey Hurlbert, a junior Ag Education and Ag Communications major from Raymond, S.D., and John Weber, a sophomore Animal Science major from Sanborn, M.N., won the SDSU Collegiate Farm Bureau Discussion Meet last November and were chosen to represent South Dakota at this national contest.  South Dakota was one of only two states to advance both of their competitors to the Sweet 16 round, and Bailey and John were the first Collegiate Farm Bureau members from South Dakota to ever make it this far in the competition.


Photos: Bailey Hurlbert and John Weber shown receiving their awards from Zach Hunnicut, national Young Farmers & Ranchers Chairman

“Bailey and John both did an outstanding job in the Collegiate Farm Bureau Discussion Meet,” said Scott VanderWal, President of the South Dakota Farm Bureau (SDFB) from Volga, S.D.  “They were definitely among the top contestants there in Phoenix.”

The Discussion Meet contest is designed to simulate a committee meeting where discussion and active participation are expected from each participant. The meet is evaluated on an exchange of ideas and information on a pre-determined agricultural topic, with the judges looking for constructive criticism, cooperation and communication.  SDSU Collegiate Farm Bureau is an affiliate of the South Dakota Farm Bureau and its Young Farmers & Ranchers program designed for those 18 to 35 years of age.

On February 9 at the national YF&R Leadership Conference, Travis Gebhart of Meadow, S.D., graduated from the Partners in Agricultural Leadership (PAL) program, an advanced leadership development training program through the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).  Each state Farm Bureau is able to nominate one candidate each year to the PAL program, and only 10 participants are chosen nationwide by AFBF for each class.  Participants are selected based on their leadership ability and Farm Bureau involvement.

“I would like to congratulate Travis on his successful completion of the PAL program,” VanderWal added.  “The experience and leadership skills he has gained the last two years are second to none and will serve him well as he continues to be a leader for the agriculture industry.”

During the two-year PAL program, Gebhart traveled to New York City, Washington, D.C., St. Louis and Phoenix to study agricultural issues in-depth and to receive media, advocacy and leadership training.  Travis is the president of the Perkins County Farm Bureau and he and his wife, Renae, are past Chairs of the SDFB Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. 

“Partners in Agricultural Leadership puts a new perspective on the world.  The media training in New York City was a real eye-opener for this West River cattle rancher,” Travis Gebhart commented.  “I want to stay involved in my county Farm Bureau, on the state board, and never stop growing and learning.”

In December, Travis and Renae were elected to serve on the AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee, a national honor based on their leadership abilities and Farm Bureau involvement.  They will serve on the YF&R Committee from 2013 to 2015.  The couple ranches near Meadow, S.D. and has three young children.

Travis Gebhart shown here receiving an award upon his graduation from the Partners in Agricultural Leadership (PAL) program.  Bob Stallman, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation, is on Travis' right handing him the award, and Scott VanderWal, President of the South Dakota Farm Bureau, is on Travis' left.

Read the full press release here.