Young Agriculture Leadership Conference draws 150 participants

Over 150 participants from all segments of Montana’s agriculture community gathered in Red Lodge, Mont. for two inspiring and information-filled days at the 7th Annual Young Agriculture Leadership Conference (YALC). The conference targets young agriculturalists ages 18-40 and is organized by seven of Montana’s most influential agriculture groups.

“It was great to see so many young ag leaders gathered in Red Lodge,” said Todd Smith, chair of the YALC planning committee. “We had a great conference and participants had the opportunity to listen to some great speakers and presenters.”

The conference kicked off with a social hour, dinner and “Montana Idol” karaoke competition on Friday evening, Oct. 1. On Saturday morning, the conference began with a breakfast presentation, “Fence Posts Talking to Each Other,” by Dr. Ron Hanson. Hanson discussed the importance of communication and a team effort for families working together on a farm and ranch. He told the group, “Just because you are talking, doesn’t mean you are communicating.” He also emphasized the need to truly listen to one another.

After breakfast, conference attendees participated in morning workshops where they had the choice between a Cattle Industry Situation and Outlook presentation by Chad Spearman at Cattle-Fax; “Taking Back Agriculture by Telling Your Story” by Jennifer Stolp, Issues Management Associate Director for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association; a presentation from John Blanchfield at the Center for Ag and Rural Banking; “ProfitZ: The Revolution in Crop Management” by Chuck Gatzemeir, CG Ag Consulting, and Jeff Nesbitt, Precision Partners; and a presentation by Trent Loos on advocating for agriculture on the internet.

State Senator Taylor Brown was the keynote speaker for Saturday’s lunch. Brown spoke to the group about leadership. “Leadership is not always fun,” he told the young ag leaders. “Leadership takes courage… Leadership is just looking around and seeing what needs to be done, then doing it.” Brown encouraged the group to stay informed, join an ag organization and get involved.

The afternoon continued with repeats of some of the morning’s workshops with an added presentation from Dr. Ron Hanson, “You Can Buy the Family Farm but Remember I Still Own It.” Two discussion groups were held to close out the afternoon, one featuring John Youngberg of the Montana Farm Bureau Federation, Dave Galt of the Montana Petroleum Association, and Jim Steinbeisser representing the Montana Stockgrowers Association; the second featuring Bob Hanson, Montana Farm Bureau Federation president, Watty Taylor, Montana Stockgrowers Association 1st vice president, and John Malia from Senator Max Baucus’ office.

Saturday evening was a fun-filled night with a delicious steak dinner and a hilarious hypnosis show with hypnotist Dr. Al Snyder. Then the group loaded shuttles to travel to the Bear Creek Saloon for live music by the Crop Dusters.

The conference closed Sunday morning, Oct. 3, with a keynote address from Trent Loos, a sixth-generation farmer and advocate for agriculture through his radio and television programs, column, and speaking engagements. Loos told stories about people all across the country who do not understand where their food comes from. He encouraged each person in the audience to become an advocate for agriculture and to bridge the gap between producers and consumers.