Have you ever had an experience that completely exceeded your expectations? PAL Class 9 did that for me. I applied to American Farm Bureau’s Partners in Advocacy Leadership training program because I wanted to get better at advocating for agriculture. I had no idea it would change me as a person, give me lifelong friends, and leave me confident in my abilities as an advocate.

PAL is an intense 2-year program that gives hands on practice in media interviewing, lobbying, testifying before Congressional committees, meetings with stakeholders in ag and leadership skills. There is also an international component that broadens understanding. These are taught in four modules with homework leading up to the meetings and homework after as follow ups. One agriculture aspect is studied throughout the two years. PAL 9 studied the Farm Bill and farm policy. We had 3 core teachers from American Farm Bureau. Margee Wolff, Johnna Miller and Cody Lyon are experts in their individual areas. We couldn’t have had better teachers. The perspective they gave us was invaluable.

PAL built on previous events I’ve participated in. Utah Farm Bureau’s YF&R trip to Washington DC was the first time I had even considered that I, myself, as a constituent could reach out to my elected officials to talk about policies important to me. AFBF’s Communication Boot Camp taught me about industry words to avoid. Consumers want to hear us describe ourselves as farmers, not producers. The many state and national conferences taught me about ways to lead in my community while promoting agriculture. PAL took all of those experiences and multiplied them. We had mock interviews or meetings over and over with feedback so we can get stronger. We read books and articles, listened to podcasts, watched videos, and made our own farm videos. We studied the Farm Bill until we knew all parts. I feel confident to be put in any one of those real-life advocacy situations. I know exactly what to do to be most effective for agriculture.

I’m not quite sure how it happened, but PAL changed me. While teaching about advocacy and agriculture, it made me a stronger leader in other areas of my life. I didn’t expect to be a better mom or church member or PTA member or friend because of PAL, yet it gave me new perspectives. I see people differently. I see conflict differently. I want to spend more time listening to people and where they are coming from. I still believe that there’s a wide gap of agriculture knowledge with consumers. But I approach the gap differently than when I started PAL. Agriculture needs advocates. And PAL turns out some of the best.

One of the very best things about PAL for me have been the friendships I’ve made with my fellow PAL participants. And it was one of the things I was most nervous about. I knew I wanted to learn the things PAL offered but I didn’t how if I wanted to be “forced” to be friends with the other participants. Luckily, my fear was unfounded. And luckily, I got to experience PAL with my Utah Farm Bureau friend, Tyson Roberts. There cannot be a warmer, kind, fun and supportive group than PAL 9. We went through all the hard stuff together, encouraging each other to be our best. They have become some of my best friends. I am amazed at everything my they are involved in. Agriculture is in good hands.

Advocating for agriculture will always be important for me. As someone who did not grow up on a farm, I feel a connection to those that have the same questions I did when I got involved in agriculture. I feel strongly that we should all be doing our part to talk about the good things we’re doing on our farms. Whatever your connection to agriculture is, consider how you can share what you do with those that want to know more. If you want to get serious about how to share that message, PAL is for you. It will change your life.