More than 520 young farmers and ranchers took a break from their daily farm chores to attend the Missouri Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) Leadership Conference February 9-11 at the Lake of the Ozarks’ Tan-Tar-A Resort.

Farm Bureau members Greg and Kat Probst, Chris and Jayme Mallett, and Jeff and Ashley McBee from Scotland County were among those who enjoyed a weekend mixing fun with learning.

The event is organized by Farm Bureau’s state YF&R Committee for farmers ages 18 to 35. Get acquainted sessions connect those attending with others from the same regions of the state, and more than a dozen break-out sessions cover topics from cover crops to wine tasting.

This year’s conference theme was “agvocate.” Westboro farmer and Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst opened the conference and spoke about the work MFB staff is involved in to further agricultural interests. He added that every farmer and rancher can help by explaining to others their passion for farming. Guest speaker and agricultural activist Trent Loos also spoke to the group. His commentary, “Loos Tales”, can be heard on 100 radio stations in 19 states. He said farmers and ranchers need to reach out to those who only know about agriculture through online Google searches. “We have to explain how the science of modern agriculture is improving our lives,” he said. “In 1900, it took five acres to feed one person. In 2018, it took less than one-third of an acre. The technology will be developed to feed more people, the question is will we be allowed to use that technology.”

Retiring chair of the YF&R Committee, Clarissa Cauthorn of Mexico, said her experience leading the committee during the past year has reinforced her faith that agriculture is in good hands. She commended the Farm Bureau program for developing young leaders that are now influencing the direction of the industry. Victoria Schwader of Easton, replaces Cauthorn as 2018 committee chair.

During the conference, the annual YF&R Discussion Meet contest was held. Dustin Stanton of Centralia won the competition after two rounds of discussions and facing off with a record number of contestants. Stanton won $500 from the MFB Foundation for Agriculture and $500 from Ford Motor Company. He also won a trip to New Orleans to compete at the national contest this January during the American Farm Bureau Annual Meeting. Second place went to Brent Erisman of Centralia and third to Jason Vandivort of Elsberry.

The MFB YF&R Conference is hosted by a committee of up to 30 young farmers. More than 100 businesses and individuals sponsor the conference with Missouri Farm Bureau Insurance Companies the presenting sponsor.