The Roundup -

Young Ag Leadership Conference Educates Leaders


Young farmers and ranchers from across the state converged at the Crowne Plaza in Billings Oct. 2-4 for the 12th Annual Young Ag Leadership Conference (YALC). YALC is a collaborative effort between nine of Montana’s agricultural organizations, offering attendees a chance to take part in various workshops, discuss current ag issues, meet with industry leaders and network with fellow young people who live Montana agriculture.

The event kicked off Friday with tours of Diamond X Farms, ORIgen and Trailhead Spirits Distillery followed by the Culinary Extravaganza and Dinner. Saturday’s workshops ranged from crop rotations to ag advocacy in social media, bovine supplements to beekeeping. Two afternoon discussion groups focused on the labeling controversy and finances. The evening event at ZOO Montana found attendees enjoying a selection of food as well as dancing.

YALC concluded Sunday morning with an inspirational talk by Daren Williams, senior communications director, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, who urged everyone to work together. “Agriculture is facing too many challenges right now with everything from GMOs to the environment, to let petty differences get in our way,” said Williams. “We must join forces and show a united front.”

Karissa Floerchinger, a former MSU Collegiate Young Farmer & Rancher member and past state FFA officer, found the workshops useful. “I attended one on crop rotation by Rob Davis, Box L Farms, who provided a lot of good information on looking at alternative crops and different farming methods,” said Floerchinger. “The younger generation needs to understand we will be the ones to come back to the farm and become globally competitive.”

She noted that the financial risk assessment workshop proved valuable with their advice that farmers and ranchers run their places like a business. “A lot of people overspent during the time of high prices, and now they are seeing the consequences of their actions,” Floerchinger shared. “You need to develop a financial plan to help you move forward.”

Gilman Gasper, a member of the MFBF Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee and McCone County Farm Bureau president, explained that the North 40 Ag presentation on soil nutrition was valuable. “Presenter Kate Vogel talked about using cover crops versus chemical fallow. She provided details that although using a cover crop may cost more initially, it puts organic matter back into your soil, making your soil healthier.”

The young farmer found YALC to be outstanding. “There were excellent speakers who covered a variety of topics. There is something for everyone, whether you grow crops, raise cattle or both. Plus, there were good ag advocacy topics. GMOs are hot right now so it was good to learn how to get dialogue going about them and other controversial topics.”

Williams, who not only spoke Sunday morning but presented a workshop on communications, was impressed that the different agricultural association groups worked together to make the conference possible. “YALC feels like a major agricultural organization event. The fact this conference is full of young farmers and ranchers is very rewarding and provides confidence that this group is ready to take on the challenges facing agriculture today and in the future.”


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