Tuesday, August 9, 2011

FCFB Annual Meeting

Last night was the Franklin County Farm Bureau Annual Meeting held at Villa Milano in Westerville. It was a great opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our organization over last year. The following are my comments made to the audience at the conclusion of the meeting.

As we wrap up our 2011 Annual Meeting, it is a true blessing that Franklin County Farm Bureau has experienced so many achievements during our previous policy year. We’ve had a lot of adventures; we’ve had a lot of fun. And it has made for numerous good stories! Those of you that know me – or read my ever-self-promoting farm blog – know that I enjoy a good story! Of course, if you were acquainted with my grandfather, Virgil Harrison, you also know that I get my love of storytelling honestly . . . although my grandfather’s stories were told twice as slow and with far fewer goats than mine contain! I love telling stories primarily because tales of agriculture are so fascinating. Farmers ARE unique! We are unlike any other community in the world! I consider it a unique pleasure to be affiliated with Franklin County Farm Bureau, and a distinct honor to be entrusted with the leadership of this organization. I am humbled by your faith in me and I thank you.

The story behind the success of Franklin County Farm Bureau in the past year is largely driven by those on our board. I always marvel at the diversity of our board members, their dedication to agriculture, and their willingness to work together to promote our organization. This year, several of our board members are moving on from the board. These are members who have contributed a remarkable spirit of leadership to our organization. It is right and fitting to take time to applaud their efforts.

When I first met Glen King, I was charmed by his warmth of spirit and his dedication to animal agriculture. We soon discovered a mutual love of sheep . . . and then distant shared cousins! Glen has given so much to agriculture in Franklin County. He has served FCFB on its policy committee and nominating committee. Glen also has an eye to the future: he is on the vanguard of researching the emerging market for sheep cheese! And I would not be surprised if Glen mastered this over the next few decades – after all, his mother (who recently celebrated her 100th birthday!) was just honored last fall as the FCFB Woman of the Year! Glen gave us quite a scare last spring with his health issues. We will miss him on the board, but look forward to keeping him involved with volunteer activities. I also want to offer a distinct thanks to Rayma King, Glen’s amazing wife. FCFB sincerely appreciates the contributions that both of you have made!

One of the first board members that I got to know well at FCFB was Bill Johnson. Bill was serving as Membership Chair and was spinning a wheel with questions about membership benefits when we met! I was a na├»ve, new member (who had been invited by Neall Weber to attend a Farm Bureau “dinner” – not realizing he had signed me up to work membership). Bill & Denise made me feel incredibly welcome as a volunteer and encouraged me that my efforts were valued. Bill taught me the important lesson that volunteers must always feel appreciated. Bill is resourceful, creative, and a remarkable volunteer! This was illustrated by his efforts to spearhead our “Drive in the Country” Farm Tour last fall. Bill enlisted the farms, arranged volunteer efforts, spearheaded the marketing, and worked the entire day to ensure the success of the event. While we are losing Bill’s leadership on the board, we look forward to future Farm Tours! Save the date of September 18th for the 2011 event . . . be sure to read the flier about it, and contact Bill or Roger Genter to help volunteer!

Have you ever received a fabulous & life-changing door prize? Those of us on this year’s Membership Committee sure did! This was thanks to Jack Orum, who was an amazing leader for our annual membership campaign! Jack did an outstanding job of keeping our 2011 Membership Campaign focused, successful, and fun . . . and we were well-motivated by the possibility of the fabulous & life-changing door prizes! Jack is also an integral part of our Junior Fair Livestock Sale team. This year he worked with Neil Distelhorst & Angela Ottman to support our county 4-Hers by spending $16,250 on ducks, chickens, rabbits, turkeys, a goat, lambs, hogs, and feeder calves. After that long day at the fair, I owe a huge thanks to Jack and to Jill & John Hay for helping me tear down the baby animal display area at 11pm at night . . . this is an adventure I will always remember! I couldn’t have completed that task without Jack, John, and Jill – and I owe them a debt for not mocking me too much as I loaded chicken wire, posters, a table, hay, a heat lamp, Farm Bureau beach balls, etc, etc, and – of course – goats into my SUV. I believe Jack’s final words to me as I pulled out that night were, “Just don’t get pulled over!” Like Glen & Bill, Jack is concluding six years on our county board of trustees. We look forward to keeping him active for future membership campaigns, and we sincerely appreciate all the efforts of Jack & his wife Diana to support FCFB!

Finally, Janet Weber Pfeifer is also retiring from the board this year. Janet & Jack Orum helped to spear-head this year’s ice cream social at the fair. We have so many amazing volunteers that help to coordinate the Country Olympics led by Dwight Beougher and the tee shirt giveaway led by Monica Schemrich. After these activities in a hot livestock barn, the ice cream social was well-appreciated this year! Janet is currently in Florida, and she has decided her commitments there prevent a year-round availability for FCFB. Despite this, we intend to keep her very busy with the scholarship committee and the ice cream social!

These four individuals are outstanding representatives of the FCFB board of trustees! I look forward to our upcoming year as we welcome new board members. Each program year offers new opportunities to create achievements and build memories. And we always have so much fun along the way! In Franklin County, we are blessed with the opportunity to directly reach and educate our consumers on a daily basis. Franklin County is a major metropolitan area, a research community with a land-grant university, and a hub for communications and business. Every day we have the opportunity to come in contact with many individuals . . . and we have the opportunity to educate them about farming!

It is true that other counties have larger and more numerous farm businesses. Franklin County is unique, however. I have heard a well-respected commentator refer to our county as the last stand for agriculture in Ohio. This is absolutely accurate: if we do not effectively share our message with the urban & suburban consumers that surround us, agriculture will suffer a major setback. The wonderful thing is that we can accomplish this so easily! Everyone loves a good story about farming – even farmers! What we do is unique: no other field offers the opportunity to impact every single human. Everyone eats – everyone needs agriculture! We also should embrace the fact that the farm community is small by turning the “novelty” factor into an educational opportunity . . . Americans are interested in farms & food and we can capitalize on this!

I thoroughly enjoy the farm journal that I keep on my blog, and I was fascinated to track the numbers of readers following a post I did on hog slaughter. After feeding out two pigs, I slaughtered them for my family to enjoy. On my blog I put up a picture of me with one of the hogs after it had been bled out. I openly discussed the fact that this could be viewed as a “gross” picture of a dead pig. Then I offered MY perspective that this was the successful end of hours of labor spent feeding & caring for these pigs, and the exciting start to the processing of the park, which would guarantee that my family would eat well this winter. I discussed how I raised the pigs, the slaughter process, and my thoughts on raising my own food. I was amazed that this post tracked 131 American readers, 4 from India and Russia, 3 Germans, 2 from Italy and Ukraine, and one reader each from Australia, Belgium, and China. While I would like to think that it was the glamorous photo of me wearing a big yellow butcher apron that drew them, I believe it was more likely a curiosity about meat processing.

We are incredibly fortunate: we work in a field where we raise food (which everyone eats) and our consumers are extremely curious about what we do! As farmers, we have experiences that amaze individuals who are not blessed with our lifestyle and our community. My friends who work in cubicles and live in apartments have never raised nor butchered a pig . . . but they are very intrigued by the process of doing this and the chance to join me for dinner! With this opportunity to educate, however, comes a great responsibility. We are always farmers. We always represent the farm community. What we say about farming and the manner in which we act impacts the future of agriculture. We must take this responsibility seriously as we engage consumers. Our role as farmers makes us unique, but if we are condescending – toward our consumers or toward our fellow farmers – we will not present agriculture in the fullness of its blessings.

I am very proud to be a member of FCFB! I am extraordinarily proud of our efforts to support the future of agriculture through our scholarships, through our efforts at the county fair, and through the Farm Days event at COSI. I am extremely delighted by our efforts to educate consumers through events like our farm tour, and to promote agriculture through our policy process & engagement with local officials. Our county, like our chosen field, is unique. It is full of blessings and opportunities. Speak up and tell your story!

WHY do you farm? WHY are you a 4-H leader? WHY do you scoop ice cream at our ice cream social? WHY do you offer your limited time to volunteer for FCFB? Tell these stories, reach out to your community, take pride in being a farmer! Our country needs farmers. It needs the farm community. It needs those voices to step forward and speak up for our values. As a community we know that values must be a part of successful policies. Remember: it was farmers & skilled tradesmen that founded America, and these same groups are needed today to protect the future of our amazing country. And remember that the elected volunteers and staff members of FCFB and OFBF work for YOU! Give us your feedback so that we can help you make agriculture, farm bureau, and our country even greater!

In exchange for this feedback, we even offer fabulous & life-changing door prizes! I would like to ask Jack Orum to assist me in drawing the winners from our evaluation forms.

At this point, I will ask for a motion to adjourn our meeting. Second. All in favor of the motion? The motion carries. Thank you for attending our 2011 Annual Meeting! May God bless you and may God bless our great country!

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