Edgefield County student Virginia Brooks Bledsoe was among fifty-three high school rising high school juniors and seniors from across South Carolina who recently participated in the South Carolina Farm Bureau Federation’s (SCFB) 2015 Youth Leadership Conference in Newberry, SC.
The conference, held on the Campus of Newberry College June 14-17, allowed students to gain valuable leadership skills, a better understanding of SC agriculture, and of Clemson University, one of the state’s land grant universities.
“Our Youth Leadership Conference, sponsored by the SCFB Women’s Leadership program, allows students to explore opportunities within agriculture while developing their skills to be leaders in the industry,” SCFB Ag Literacy Director, Vonne Knight, said.
In addition to emphasizing the understanding of agriculture, the conference also featured a number of workshops focused on leadership and teamwork. The conference operates on a two-year curriculum cycle where students learn about agricultural marketing and promotion one year and about government relations and agricultural advocacy the next. This year’s conference focused on marketing commodities in South Carolina.
Students were addressed by industry professionals on leadership, team building and goal setting. Kirby Player, director of college relations for Clemson University’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, introduced the conference by energizing the students and showing them what the agriculture industry has to offer for students. Director of organizational training and leadership development for SCFB, Jessica Cabrera, engaged participants in leadership activities essential for students to develop personally and professionally.
2015 SCFB Youth Ambassador Leigh Fleming said, “Youth Leadership Conference is a great way to meet people from all across South Carolina who share a passion for agriculture. We were able to build leadership skills while expanding our network and agricultural knowledge.”
Participants heard from commodity experts on turkeys, honey bees, peanuts and collards. The commodity experts included Fairfield County turkey farmer William Coleman, Clemson bee specialist Jennifer Tsuruda, Calhoun County peanut farmer Russell Ott, and Lexington County collard grower Charles Wingard. After learning about their commodities, the students then participated in “Shark Tank” type of competition where they designed a mock project around an agribusiness plan on one of those four commodities and presented in front of a panel of “investors.”
This year’s winning team was the turkeys. Judges said their presentation was well thought out and put together and very deserving of the winning title. The team members were Jacob Taylor of Lexington County, Claire Manuel of Allendale County, Emily Burris of Anderson County, Hannah Hansen of Beaufort County, Harrison Tucker of Cherokee County, Julia Smoak of Dorchester County, Briley Lawrimore of Georgetown County, Luke Newton of Greenwood County, Reid Phipps of Horry County, James Hilton of Lexington County, and Mac Werts of Newberry County. The team’s two-fold plan was to clean turkey houses and haul off the waste for a fee. They would then turn the litter into fertilizer and sell it for a profit.
“South Carolina’s agricultural industry is a vital part of the state’s economy,” SCFB President David Winkles said. “We advocate so our kids and grandkids can farm long after we are gone. Educating our youth on opportunities available to them within the agriculture industry is the first step in involving students so they can have a lasting voice in today’s issues.”
The conference closed with the announcement of next year’s Youth Leadership Team Leaders. They will be John Eaddy of Florence County, Carlie Taylor of Allendale County, and Megan Garris and Jacob Reeves of Dorchester County.
The SC Farm Bureau Federation is a non-profit membership organization formed to promote and preserve the work of family farmers and rural lifestyles across the state. In exchange for their annual dues and financial support of education, promotion and lobbying efforts on behalf of agriculture and family farmers, Farm Bureau members are entitled to discounts and access to a number of quality products.
The organization serves more than 100,000 member families in 47 chapters and has been around since 1944. Persons interested in supporting agricultural education are encouraged to contact their county Farm Bureau office or the South Carolina Farm Bureau Federation at www.scfb.org for additional information.