Early this summer I placed a phone call to John Azevedo to inquire about a leadership position his county Farm Bureau was interested in filling. Little did we know then that conversations to follow would lead to a new position, in a new county, in a new state? What an amazing chain of events that have transpired and resulted in Sonoma County Farm Bureau placing their trust in a Midwestern farm boy to shepherd the programs, policies and activities that promote agriculture and its valuable connection to the economy of Sonoma County.
My background is deeply rooted in agriculture; I was born and raised on a grain and livestock farm just east of Indianapolis, Indiana. My 4-H and FFA participation helped foster early thoughts of making farming a career. Four memorable years attending Purdue University followed high school and provided me with a degree in agriculture economics and more importantly the knowledge of the importance of relationships and working cohesively with others to accomplish goals and objectives.
Returning to the family farm satisfied a long-held desire to continue the family tradition of raising crops and animals. When you work the land there is an unexplainable connection that grows and develops into a commitment to not only produce food, fuel and fiber for your neighbors, but to also improve the land and leave it in better condition for those who will follow. Being involved in your community was another expectation that was instilled during my formative years, which led to serving in appointed and elected positions in local government and a new career path working for the Farm Bureau organization.
A majority of my professional career has been vested with the Farm Bureau organization. Initially, I acted as field liaison for Indiana Farm Bureau with eight County Farm Bureaus, advising and assisting their local leaders. My community involvement in local government lead to government relations work where I advocated for Farm Bureau policy positions in the Indiana General Assembly.
An opportunity followed to expand into a federal focus through working with twelve state Farm Bureaus in the Midwest coordinating policy and programs for the American Farm Bureau Federation. AFBF restructuring led to another role in Illinois as a director of local and state legislation for the state Farm Bureau.
The past ten years have been spent in Indiana serving as Director of Organizational Development leading a team encompassing membership activities, field services, leadership development, agriculture education, youth involvement and community outreach.
I will say that this next Farm Bureau chapter is full of promise, opportunities and yes, challenges. Some may not yet be aware and others may take for granted the rich agricultural heritage that has contributed significantly to a Sonoma County that has become such an attractive community and destination.
I am seeing a strongly committed group of agriculture leaders and a talented staff who are intent on building upon this heritage and ensuring the continuing viability of our farms and ranches. I would like to thank the Sonoma County Farm Bureau executive committee and the board for allowing me to serve in this role and I look forward to what we can accomplish together.