Finding opportunities beyond Young Leaders


As Illinois Farm Bureau's Young Leaders age out of the organization, how can they stay involved?

That's a challenge IFB and the Young Leader program continue to grapple with, as engaged members sometimes struggle knowing where to look for opportunities.

Events and activities allow Young Leaders to network, engage in policy development and learn, but a panel of current and former members said it's not so easy to keep that momentum going once you hit the the program's age limit of 35.

Adrienne DeSutter, an agricultural mental health specialist and an American Farm Bureau Foundation GO Team member, wondered if there are more opportunities for specialized peer groups.

"It doesn't necessarily have to be a giant conference or a big expensive thing but some type of way to create a network or social event for something within specializations," DeSutter said.

While some members are able to find a role on their county Farm Bureau board, others don't anticipate seats opening anytime soon.

But that shouldn't discourage members from attending their county board meetings, said Bureau County Farm Bureau President Evan Hultine, a former state YL chair and current member. Much of his Farm Bureau involvement stems from attending those board meetings, month after month, demonstrating to board members that he's passionate about their work.

Hultine also encouraged Young Leaders to network with fellow members and staff as much as possible, especially at large events such as the Young Leader Conference.

"Getting to know these people on a more personal level, telling them my story, what I'm passionate about -- those are the things that make those connections," he said. "Those connections have really spurred a lot of my state and national development."

Hultine and DeSutter were also joined by Livingston County Farm Bureau President Jason Bunting, who's also a former state YL chair; Richland County Farm Bureau President Joel Gardner; and moderator Emily Zelhart, IFB senior training and development coordinator.

The panelists agreed those who have found success beyond Young Leaders should be promoting opportunities and programs.

"It's so important. If you've been through any experience with Farm Bureau or any organization that you believe passionately in that we take that opportunity, that responsibility to continue building the hype for those programs," DeSutter said.

Many county Farm Bureaus are also active on social media, which can benefit those looking to stay involved. Hultine suggested following as many county Farm Bureaus as possible on Facebook.

"If you're seeing that scroll of information on your Facebook page, it at least gets you a little bit more in tune to what is happening across the state and maybe allows you to pick up something to go back to your own county and say, 'Hey, I see Woodford County is doing something on this program; what the heck is it and how can I get involved?'"

Livingston County Farm Bureau is committee-based, and Bunting said encouraging the more seasoned Young Leaders to join a committee of interest is another way to create opportunities.

"But the most important thing is as you're aging out, just be seen by the movers and the shakers of your county and be present when asked to help and participate, and that will go a long, long way," Bunting said.

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