There is a saying that goes, “Whatever makes you uncomfortable is your biggest opportunity for growth.”

Public speaking, being on camera and media interviews are all things that make me uncomfortable. But I’ve always been looking for ways to improve. I’ve read about the American Farm Bureau Women’s Communications Boot Camp, and the Ohio women who have attended, for several years. Three small children, a full-time farm and other commitments always held me back. But in February 2020, I finally made the decision to try for it. I submitted my application … and then a pandemic happened! So when I received notice that the boot camp would be held last fall, I was more than ready. I re-applied and found out that out of 56 applications, Ohio would be sending two women in agriculture. 

I was warned ahead of time that the boot camp would be intense. But I told myself that was exactly why I was going, to get uncomfortable and to grow. I have to say after making it through, although it was intimidating at times, it was actually very refreshing. It took me out of my comfort zone in a good way. For example, we were told to prepare a three-minute speech about one of AFBF’s top issues. It would be recorded while we presented to the group, and we could only have one note card with keywords on it. I loathe watching myself on camera or listening to my voice, so the thought of watching it with someone while they critiqued me made my stomach hurt.

During the speech I kept thinking, “Can they hear my heart pounding? Can they see my lips quivering?” At one point I said something out of order, fumbled, apologized and went on. Watching it later with my instructor, I got a different perspective. I realized all of those nerves I felt inside weren’t visible on the outside and that the audience didn’t have my script. They had no idea I messed up until I pointed it out to them. Those simple realizations were such confidence boosters.

It was an extremely beneficial training program, but the most fulfilling part of the experience was getting to know the other boot campers. We weren’t just there to learn from the instructors; we were there to learn from other Farm Bureau women from all over the country (from as far away as Alaska!), to learn from each other’s experiences, to uplift and encourage each other and to drive each other to improve. Each and every woman I met at boot camp was incredible. What drew us together was the passion that we all have for this amazing industry. No matter the different types of agriculture we are involved in, whether it’s sugarcane, bison, cut flowers, food inspection, grain crops or cattle, we are all unified in our beliefs: We love our families, we love our farms, we love Farm Bureau and we want to be able to share that with the world. We all attended boot camp in order for the amazing AFBF staff to help us do that.

Overall, it was amazing experience. I highly encourage any Farm Bureau woman who is passionate about our wonderful industry and wants to do more to advocate for it, whether you are comfortable communicating or not, to apply for an upcoming Women’s Communication Boot Camp.

Editor’s note: A spring session of Boot Camp will be conducted March 22-25, 2022. Applications are accepted through Jan. 17, 2022. Utah has has several attendees participate in the past.