Farm Bureau grassroots members from around the country came together as “Mi Familia” for the 104th American Farm Bureau Convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico, earlier this month. It was amazing to see folks travel far and wide to celebrate agriculture and discuss ideas, policies and projects on tap for the future. Members heard from diverse keynote speakers, participated in impactful workshops and networked with industry partners and each other.

President Zippy Duvall opened the convention with an encouraging keynote address highlighting the good work members are doing to advocate for the farm bill and other important policies, in addition to educating students about agriculture and telling farmers’ stories.

“The American people trust you and me as farmers,” Duvall said. “Surveys show they trust us more than the federal government and more than environmental groups.” 

Attendees heard from several keynote speakers such as artist, songwriter and humanitarian Big Kenny Alphin of Big & Rich, who shared about his efforts to end hunger. Chief Executive Optimist of clothing brand Life is Good, Bert Jacobs, told attendees why he believes in the power of optimism. His message resonated with farmers and ranchers, many of whom have faced difficult times in recent years. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also addressed convention attendees, providing information on several USDA developments. Attendees also appreciated hearing a video message of support for farmers and what they do from President Joe Biden.

Influencer and entrepreneur Kamal Bell is a North Carolina farmer and shared how much the Farm Bureau family has meant to him in a workshop. “There was a realness I felt with Farm Bureau and for me that goes a long, long way,” Bell said.

Attendees were also joined by retail food company representatives including Mikel Hancock from Walmart, who shared how food company commitments directly impact farmers. “We go and speak to ranchers to listen and hear what’s on their mind. I’ve never met a rancher who didn’t want to do the right thing,” Hancock said.

Tough, a Border Collie from Kansas, was announced as the 2023 Farm Dog of the Year. Tough’s story is one of resilience and strong bonding with her owners Denny and Donna Ashcraft. In many ways, farm dogs like Tough are just like other pets, bringing families together and providing comfort through difficult and stressful times.

NORDEF, a startup from Kansas that developed technology to produce diesel exhaust fluid at the point of use, was named the 2023 Ag Innovation Challenge winner. Four semi-finalists competed for the grand prize in front of a judging panel and a live audience, offering a fascinating glimpse into how advances in technology and innovation are helping farmers.

Farm Bureau also celebrated the accomplishments of Young Farmers & Ranchers program participants. Daniel and Carla Trantham of Alabama won the Achievement Award, Mike Hannewald of Ohio won the Discussion Meet and Stacie Anderson of Ohio won the Excellence in Agriculture Award. YF&R provides opportunities for young people ages 18-35 to develop their leadership skills and this year’s award winners certainly proved they are poised to lead the next generation of agriculture.

Farmer and rancher delegates at the business meeting adopted policies to guide the organization’s work in 2023. Key topics ranged from expanding risk management programs and improving dairy pricing transparency to battling hunger.

This year’s AFBF Convention was memorable because of the many significant conversations, achievements celebrated and friendships forged. We look forward to seeing each other again next year in Salt Lake City, Utah, and can’t wait to see what we will accomplish between now and then.

Kelsea Forward is the communications assistant at the American Farm Bureau Federation.