One hundred years ago, most farmers and rural Americans didn’t yet have electricity. Today, we are experimenting with self-driving tractors. Sixty years ago, the American farmer fed 26 people. Today, the average U.S. farm feeds 166 annually in the U.S. and abroad. Fifty years ago, many small family farmers milked 100 dairy-cow herds by hand. Today, a robotic milker can handle nearly twice that workload. The American farm is always adapting and improving thanks to innovation developed on and off the farm.
Farmers are innovators—by nature and necessity. It’s in our blood to look for better ways to do things—to save precious time and resources. Over this centennial year at American Farm Bureau, we have celebrated the great strides we have taken together in agriculture, but more importantly we are looking to the future and how we can continue to grow stronger together.
At Farm Bureau, we are tackling agriculture’s challenges from all sides. From the halls of Congress to the corporate board room, agriculture is taking a seat at the table. We are proud of our advocacy work and the accomplishments we have seen together. But we also know that some of the greatest forces for change are far from our nation’s capital. They are the small business owners and hard-working entrepreneurs across this country—men and women like you who are working every day to make tomorrow a little better. That’s why we are proud to host the Ag Innovation Challenge for the sixth year. Farm Bureau began this competition because we wanted to promote and support the businesses that are driving U.S. agriculture and rural communities forward. And this year’s 10 semi-finalists are doing just that.
Let’s take a look at the exciting work these amazing men and women are already doing for their farms and communities. This year’s top contenders include innovators who have developed systems to increase sustainability by turning waste into biochar and recycling food waste into fertilizer. We have farmer entrepreneurs who found ways to market their personal innovations to reduce cost and increase profitability. Several of this year’s semi-finalists are harnessing technology to connect farmers with suppliers, equipment, workers, and even bees. What do all these unique businesses have in common? They have seen challenges as opportunities.
I’m excited for the whole Farm Bureau family to have an opportunity to meet these entrepreneurs as they compete live at our Annual Convention in Austin later this month. Thanks to our sponsors, each team has already been awarded $10,000, which will go a long way in supporting their growing businesses, and in January, they will compete for the chance to be the next Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year. I hope you’ll be sure to come learn more about the exciting work these folks are doing and cheer them on as they help advance agriculture.
As we kick off the next century of Farm Bureau, we all can shape the future of agriculture—through the policies we advocate for, the business decisions we make, and the calling we continue to answer. Together, we can take on the challenges facing our farms and ranches and find solutions that will take us through the next 100 years and beyond.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.