Tell us a bit about yourself.
Our family’s farming history goes back at least four generations and I have considered myself to be a farmer since birth. Our farm, Orthridge Jerseys, is outside of Fennimore and we raise Jersey cattle and grow corn, alfalfa, oats and cover crops. I serve on the Grant County Farm Bureau board of directors and as a member of the WFBF Dairy committee. I am a former WFBF Young Farmer and Agriculturist Committee chair. On the national level, I served on the American Farm Bureau Young Farmer’s & Ranchers Committee with my wife Charisse. We have three children, Zeeva, Jaylee and Callum.
What does advocacy mean to you?
To me, advocacy is sharing information about something important to you.
If a Farm Bureau member wanted to take their advocacy efforts to the next level, what are some steps they should take?
I think that no matter where you are in your advocacy journey, there are next steps that you can take. Find things that are interesting to you and share with your social media friends, join organizations that share your passions, or apply for a position for an organization you’re already a part of. There are always people seeking the skills and stories that you already have to share!
What is the Partners in Advocacy Leadership Program?
PAL is an executive-level experience, training Farm Bureau members to be better advocates for agriculture, share stories with consumers and collaborate more with members of the legislature and other stakeholders. The program is for members ages 30 to 45 and the participants meet five times during a two-year period. In between meetings, participants engage in a variety of activities to help build their skills learned after each session.
Why did you choose to participate in the program?
I was looking for a next step in my Farm Bureau journey. I had recently retired from the AFBF YF&R Committee and PAL was the perfect opportunity to take advantage of.
What are the top three takeaways from the program?
Through PAL, I learned so much about building relationships and becoming a trusted source for people who have questions about what we do on our farms. I learned how to create videos and convey the right positive message about agriculture with consumers who haven’t had firsthand experience visiting a farm. PAL helped me hone my social media skills and showed me ways to be more ‘findable’ as a knowledgeable person in agriculture.
What would you tell other Farm Bureau members who are looking for a personal and professional development experience like this?
PAL is a wonderful program with a lot of class-based and module learning. Due to the wide array of participants from across the U.S., I learned about different commodities, climates and more. I learned from my classmates about almonds to oranges, pudding to pumpkins, dry land to never seeing snow. If you are looking for more personal and professional development opportunities closer to home, I would recommend participating in WFBF Leadership Institute or serving on a state WFBF committee. These would both be great first steps in your leadership development journey and PAL could help build upon that.