Six young ag producers from South Dakota had the opportunity to attend the Young Farmers & Ranchers national conference held Feb. 12-15 in Kansas City, Missouri. This American Farm Bureau Federation event focused on leadership and personal development opportunities for young farmers and ranchers ages 18 to 35.

Chad and Kathy Hanrahan of Milesville (couple right), Nick and Bekah Ihnen of Tulare (couple left), and Kelsi LaMont and Travis Grave of Willow Lake (couple center) attended from South Dakota.

Highlights of the conference included hearing from Miss America Betty Cantrell, a farm girl from Georgia who is using her platform to promote healthy food choices and teach kids where their food comes from, and Jason Brown, former NFL football player who left the league to start a farm in his native North Carolina.

“Nick and I greatly enjoyed our time at the national YF&R conference,” commented Bekah Ihnen. “I think our favorite part of the conference was the tours, being able to take a look at different crops and farm operations. We really appreciate being given this opportunity through Farm Bureau.”

“It was great to meet some other state YF&R chairs and lots of new people. We got to bring home information that we can use in our own operations, our County Farm Bureaus and our state YF&R committee,” added Chad Hanrahan. Chad and Kathy serve as co-chairs of the SDFB Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee this year.

In addition to the keynote speakers, breakout sessions were offered on a wide variety of useful topics, including: farm succession planning, working across generations, tackling tough agricultural topics with consumers, record keeping for precision-ag data, using social media to connect with the off-farm public, and more.

Kelsi LaMont added, “By far the greatest part of the conference was the chance to network with other ranchers our age. It’s nice to know we’re not alone in facing challenges and to make lifelong friends who share the same values and interests. The travel experience and educational information were also much appreciated.”

SDFB President Scott VanderWal, who was elected last month as Vice President of the American Farm Bureau Federation, was also a featured speaker at the conference, alongside new AFBF President Zippy Duvall of Georgia.