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YF&R convention: Conference provided educational opportunities

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

 Deadwood, S.D. – On Jan. 21-22, the  Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation (WyFB) and South Dakota Farm Bureau (SDFB) Young Farmer & Rancher (YF&R) 2022 Conference took place at The Lodge.

The theme for the conference was “Building Bridges and Growing Generations,” with the focus placed on the importance of young farmers and rancher’s involvement in agriculture and its future. The intent of the conference was to discuss timely topics, listen to thought provoking speakers and build lifelong relationships among those in the industry. 

Approximately 150 young men and women from across the U.S. attended the conference to tune into sessions and tour local businesses.

The conference was hosted by the WyFB and SDFB YF&R Committees for farmers and ranchers of all ages. Children were welcome to attend. 

“It was a great opportunity for ranchers and farmers,” shared Tucker Hamilton, WyFB YF&R committee member. “We did several tours to let people see some areas of an industry they might not have access to.” 

“There was a lot of networking that happened with breaks planned into the schedule, which allowed people to meet others from different states,” Hamilton added. “Overall, the conference saw attendees who ranged in age from their 20s to mid-50s, and we were pleased with the turnout.”

Breakout sessions

Breakout sessions included topics on succession planning and healthy family relationships, soil health, entrepreneurship and political engagement over the two-day event. 

The conference kicked off with a breakout session, “Grassroots of Healthy Family Relationships” presented by Elaine Froese.

Froese is a lifelong farmer and uses her background in conflict resolution and communication to help farmers and ranchers face make-or-break conflicts head on so they can focus on the business of their operation. 

The session focused on better communication and conflict resolution to secure a successful farm transition among ranching and farming families, especially with young family members.  

Her expertise encouraged members to discuss the “Undiscussabull™” – the bull in the middle of the family operation no one wants to talk about. Froese shared simple, practical and actionable tools to resolve conflict.   

Soil health

Jared Knock, analytical motivator and Justin Fruechte, director of sales of Millborn Seeds Inc., shared their knowledge on “Soil Health, Cover Crop Mixes and Practical Experience.”

Living agriculture each day, Knock and Fruechte shared their knowledge and insights on forage and cover crops. 

“We ended up turning our session into a live breakout podcast session called Roots & Ruminants,” shared Fruechte. “We were able to take questions from the audience and answer those questions with the panel we had. It was a great chance for producers to have interaction with us and get their questions answered.” 

Overall, it was a great event and went really well, Fruechte concluded.  

The pair regularly shares several topics on their podcast, Roots & Ruminants which can be found on YouTube, Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Industry tours

On the first day of the conference, attendees were invited to participate in several tours of local agriculture businesses. Attendees visited the McNenny Fish Hatchery and the Spearfish Brewing Company.  

The McNenny Fish Hatchery produces trout and salmon for stocking across South Dakota. High fishing pressure, low natural reproduction and limited food supply have created the need for stocking, shares the McNenny Fish Hatchery webpage. 

Annually, the hatchery produces nearly 90,000 pounds of fish. Artesian wells and springs provide nearly four million gallons of water daily, and after being used at the hatchery, flows into Crow Creek. 

The hatchery is always looking for interns, added Hamilton. 

“They really like getting farmers and ranchers as interns,” he adds. “They like to hire interns who are self-sufficient and hardworking individuals.” 

Interested parties are encouraged to contact the hatchery or checkout their webpage, noted Hamilton. 

The Spearfish Brewing Company was also a tour spot for conference attendees. The brewery features South Dakota’s first horizontal lagering tanks and a three-stage reverse osmosis water filtration system, allowing the brewery to create clean, award-winning lagers. 

“We saw about 45 to 50 people participate in the tours,” shared Hamilton. “The tours allowed people to see different areas that they might not have access to.” 

Healthy political

The conference rounded out with a “Testifying Before Congress” discussion presented by SDFB President and American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Scott VanderWal, WyFB President Todd Fornstrom and AFBF Director of Advocacy and Grassroots Randy Dwyer. 

VanderWal is a third-generation corn and soybean farmer and cattle feeder from Volga, S.D. 

“One of the Farm Bureau’s main goals is to make sure Congress, the White House and federal government agencies understand how their policies affect farmers and ranchers – and the millions of people we feed,” shared VanderWal on the AFBF webpage. 

Fornstrom runs Premium Hay Products, an alfalfa pellet mill, as well as a trucking business and custom combining business. Fornstrom also works with his father farming near Pine Bluffs. The diversified farm consists of irrigated corn, wheat, alfalfa and dry beans. 

“Congressional testimony goes beyond literally testifying before Congress,” shared Fornstrom. “It is serving on your local board, talking to the lady in the grocery store and reaching out to your neighbor to explain the issues you are facing on your operation.” 

“We wanted people to realize that it’s not hard to speak to people about agriculture and we need to do it,” said Hamilton. “It’s not as intimidating as one would think.” 

WyFB and SDFB YF&R offers several resources for members in an effort to make conversations happen, added Hamilton. 

Future events 

Looking forward to 2022, the WyFB is planning March 1-3 to participate in legislative meetings.

“The WyFB Legislative Meeting is an opportunity for members to get together to talk to senators and representatives of Wyoming,” shared Hamilton. “If people are interested in being a part of the conversation, we sit in on committee meetings.”  

The WyFB also has an annual meeting set for November as well, shared Hamilton. 

Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to 

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