Earlier this year, we wrote about Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) Program, and how engaging and developing the next generation of American farmers is so important. This week, we’re sharing the story of Jamie and Ryan Clark, a young farming couple from Rockingham County who fell in love with “farm life” and the young farming community.
Seven years ago, my husband Ryan and I didn’t own a farm, much less have plans to own a farm. We were like most young couples, working 50 hours a week to make a living and start our family. We were interested in agriculture, and even had a couple of cows and a small garden in our backyard. That’s when we became involved with the Young Farmers & Ranchers Program after our District Field Representative suggest we attend the NCFB State YF&R Conference. That experience gave us the motivation to grow our small backyard garden into the lifestyle that we wanted for our family.
But that change didn’t happen overnight, and YF&R played a role in helping us prepare to be full-time farmers. As recently as two years ago we were both employed full-time within the corporate world. After attending a few YF&R conferences, meeting other young couples from around the state and seeing how they became full-time farmers without being handed down a family farm, Ryan is now self-employed as a full-time farmer and we are both proud owners of Clark Family Farms LLC. Being a YF&R member gave us the opportunity to meet other young farmers like us that began a farming operation with nothing.
After attending the conference for a few years, Ryan and I started a YF&R Committee in our county in partnership with a neighboring county. We now have around 20 active members who meet once a month and talk “farm life” while our kids run around and play! Not only has YF&R allowed my husband and I to pursue lifelong friendships with folks who share a common interest in agriculture, but it has also presented us with the greatest networking opportunity that anyone could ask for. Thanks to the YF&R program we have friends all across the state – which is always a plus when buying or selling farm equipment.
But YF&R is about more than developing that local community; the program has also pushed us to become leaders within our community. Our YF&R committee members have supplied aid to Hurricane Matthew victims, donated food to local food pantries, built gardens for local elementary schools, toured local farms, hosted a Farmer Appreciation Night, and many of our members even serve on educational or agricultural boards within the county. We have had up-close and personal education of different farming operations across the state, and more importantly we have developed leadership skills that can be utilized for the rest of our life.
After attending our first YF&R Conference seven years ago, we’ve been back every year since. The breakout sessions are extremely useful – we’ve learned about lending, crop insurance, and the importance of balancing work and family, to name a few topics – and fun in many ways. And of course the networking opportunities are always amazing. We have learned so much about farming practices and how they differ across the state. We always leave the conference eager to promote the importance of agriculture in our community.
Joining the Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Family was one of the best decisions we have ever made. Thanks to the YF&R Program we are living our dream each and every day. We would recommend it to anyone with the slightest interest in farming or agriculture. Becoming involved is fairly simple – just contact your local Farm Bureau office. They will put you in touch with either the County YF&R Chair or the District Field Representative. Everyone is welcome – farmers, teachers, bankers, firefighters and anything in between. All you have to do is become involved.