IFB Young Leaders on front line of ag issues

Industry involvement of young farmers as important as ever in connecting consumer base and embracing technology.

IFB Vice President Brian Duncan speaks with young leaders about the importance of their involvement in the ag industry. (Photos by Daniel Grant)

By Daniel Grant

Illinois Farm Bureau Vice President Brian Duncan of Polo (Ogle County) distinctly remembers competing in the Young Leaders Discussion Meet back when the group was known as Young Farmers.

He talked about that experience and told other entertaining stories and jokes to make key points during his address at the recent Young Leader State Conference in East Peoria.

“I would be up all night, sick with nerves (before competing in the discussion meet),” Duncan told a capacity crowd of more than 500 Young Leaders. “I thought, ‘why am I doing this?’

“It stretches you, it makes you better,” he noted. “I encourage all of you to be involved and continue to grow and stretch yourself.”

IFB State Young Leader Committee Chairwoman Kaylee Heap encourages young leaders to get others engaged in the ag industry.IFB State Young Leader Committee Chairwoman Kaylee Heap (left) encourages young leaders to get others engaged in the ag industry.

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Young Leaders provides a good start for beginning farmers and ag professionals as members can learn more about farming and their customer base, and important policy issues, and network with others in their field, among other benefits.

“Farm Bureau offers a ton of opportunities to grow and add to your base of knowledge,” Duncan said. “Take advantage of every opportunity.”


Young farmers are as important as ever to the ag industry to form connections with a highly segmented consumer base while embracing new technology to help boost output on farms while using fewer resources.

“I’m convinced in Farm Bureau and agriculture, we need to do a better job telling our story,” Duncan told Young Leaders. “You are our soldiers on the front line. You are the ones who make connections, who have the relationships and are on social media.

“Don’t be afraid to write that letter to the editor, make a social post or meet your congressman,” he noted. “IFB has lots of resources to help you do it.”

Kaylee Heap, IFB State Young Leader Committee Chairwoman from Minooka (Kendall County), also focused on boosting statewide involvement during her address at the conference.

“What do you want the future of IFB to be? How do we engage a diverse membership group and get more involvement?” she said. “My challenge to everybody is, who can you get involved.” 

Heap joked that she tried for years to get her husband, Kevin, to attend Young Leader functions. But it wasn’t until a local seed salesman invited him that he accepted the offer.

“We’re attracting talented people to our industry,” she said. “Who better to go out and engage.”

The top three goals of the YL State Committee this year involve generating more feedback from members, providing more resources to the Collegiate Farm Bureau program, and researching and embracing the history of the YL program, Heap noted.