New group is determined to uphold the legacy of generations of farmers –
Story and photo by Patricia Beech –
The inaugural meeting of the Adams County Young Ag Professionals (YAP) was held on Friday, June 24, at the Adams County Fairgrounds. According to Heather Utter of the Ohio Farm Bureau, the kick-off meeting began the groups effort to grow the the new coalition by reaching out to young farmers across Adams County.
“We sent out close to 100 invitations to young ag professionals from Adams County who are already in our data base to be a part of the group and help expand it,” said Utter. “The families who are here for this first meeting are encouraged to invite people to our next event, we want to build up from here.”
Participants in YAP are individuals, 18-35 years old, who are Farm Bureau members interested in improving the business of agriculture.
”Our goal is to provide young farmers leadership development opportunities and help consumers understand how ‘farm-to-table’ their food is raised and processed,” said Macy Staggs, who along with Emily Arthur, Chris Fitzpatrick, Daniel Foster, and Nick Staggs formed the group’s core start-up committee. Staggs says she really wanted to start a Young Ag Professionals group in Adams County “because there are so many young people who don’t have a place where they feel like they can grow together.”
According to the Ohio Farm Bureau, YAP members are “full- and part-time farmers, OSU Extension agents, teachers, consumer educators, former Ohio Farm Bureau Youth members, FFA and 4-H alumni, farm media communicators, livestock and equine enthusiasts, wine makers, alpaca breeders, seed representatives, beekeepers, green industry employees, gardeners, foodies and more – whether they have a half-acre or 5,000 acres, or work in the food and farming industry.”
Young Ag Professionals groups are popping up in counties all across Ohio, and members are the driving force behind their group’s social and educational activities.
“This is something for young farmers and their families to come to and enjoy time together,” says Staggs. “We want people to not only learn about agriculture, but we also want them to feel when we get together, that this is their place, and we’re all part of the farming family, and that we support each other through good times and bad.”
The group is planning several future family-fun events including a trip to a dairy farm and an ice cream social. “We plan to have events people can come to and have fun while learning things about agriculture they may not have known,” Staggs said. “We want to teach our kids where they’re food comes from and that agriculture is a way of life.”
“Many YAP groups have cookouts, go camping and fishing, and take farm tours,” said Utter. “It helps keep the ag family involved.”
While educating children is an important element in the group’s agenda, the aging of America’s farming community is another topic of concern for YAP members.
According to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, “In the past 40 years, the United States has lost more than a million farmers and ranchers”, and those remaining are aging.
“We’re the do or die generation,” says Staggs. “We must either educate young farmers or risk losing farming as a way of life.”
Utter agrees. “For farming to continue we have to start with the young agricultural leaders,” she says. “That’s why the Ohio Farm Bureau is reaching out and trying to engage these young ag professionals, and get them more involved and show them what their parents and grandparents have done.”
Adams County Commissioner Stephen Caraway commends the start-up group for their efforts. “The people here represent Adams County’s agricultural future, and we need to bring more folks into the organization,” he said. “The Farm Bureau can help by protecting the farmer and the industry, and by coming up with common sense solutions to problems, like how to produce more and be more efficient because the world’s food supply is going to have to be doubled in the next generation. In the hands of this group, I think Adams County’s agricultural future looks pretty great.”
Anyone interested in learning more about joining the Adams County Young Ag Professionals group should contact the Adams County Farm Bureau for information.