If you have been involved in agriculture in the state of TN, or any state for that matter, you have probably heard of an organization called YF&R or Young Farmers and Ranchers. It is a leadership development program within the TN Farm Bureau Federation and if you are age 18-35 and interested in agriculture it is the place for you! If you don’t know what I am talking about but are involved in agriculture just keep reading because I’m going to explain a YF&R event from the eyes of a first time attendee. I’m not an expert by any means, but I would like to share my experience from this past weekend with the hope that I can encourage other young people to join and become involved!
My twin sister Josey has been involved in YF&R for many years. She has begged me and Doug to join her and Matt (her husband) on many excursions across our great state of TN, but for years I have said no because we are always so busy. Doug runs his own plumbing company and can’t take off from work much (sheep shows take most of those days), and I always feel too busy and stressed from a hectic work week to even think about going on another weekend trip. However, this past weekend K and I ventured to Cookeville, TN to participate in the YF&R Fall Tour. Josey has always raved about these tours so I thought why not?
Earlier in the year, Josey talked me into applying for the Excellence in Ag competition also, and this tour is where the county winners give their presentations. So K and I raced to Cookeville to make it on time for my 5:00 pm presentation time. I had just helped my B&B members cook and serve 400 ribeye meals for the Ag in the Foothills Fall Field Day, so needless to say I was running a bit behind!
From the very moment K and I walked into the hotel we were greeted with warm welcomes, hellos, and kind faces. Maybe that’s because I look like Josey and everyone knows her, but maybe not?! 🙂 After my presentation I found K and her DoDo (that’s what she calls Josey) playing in the hotel lobby with a slew of other small children. K played with everyone, met new baby friends and adult friends, and was playing nonstop until we got in the car to go home! Immediately I knew we were going to fit in well with all the people in YF&R! They too have exuberant young children who run around with sippy cups, dirty knees, and smiles on their little faces. Everyone takes care of each other and their children, and everyone is welcomed with a smile. I felt right at home with these fine people and K certainly did too judging by all the high-fives and fist bumps I saw her handing out!
K didn’t take the opening ceremony too well because DoDo had to speak on the microphone. Every time she spoke K would yell for her and I’d have to carry her (kicking and crying) out of the meeting room. But did I get sideways glances and dirty looks?? Nope! Everyone understood and laughed along with me, because that’s all you can do with a crying toddler sometimes. We kept playing in the lobby with the other children but K could still hear Josey so eventually we went to bed!
Tour day was a blast for both of us! K was an absolute angel and loved all the stops also. She loved the lettuce facility Tanimura & Antle Produce and really just wanted to pick the lettuce and ride the water transport system.
She especially liked lunch at Honest Abe Log Homes (where the sweet ladies helped me read the hot dog box to check for wheat and other allergens) and gobbled up her hot dog and hamburger. She didn’t like DoDo speaking on the microphone again so we ventured around admiring the pumpkins and mums and shopping around The Mill Storehouse . If you are in the area of Cookeville you have to stop by this little boutique!
We ended the day at Amazin’ Acres pumpkin patch and corn maze. K loved picking “pumps” and riding on the hay wagon.
Dinner was at Andy and Terra Davis’ family farm and was absolutely delicious! The sweet ladies serving dinner answered my questions about the food and K was able to eat ham and green beans (she’s allergic to wheat, dairy, eggs, and peanuts so we have to be very careful about what she eats). Naturally during dinner Josey had to speak some more and K couldn’t take not being with her DoDo so we played outside on the corn hole boards. I was blessed to win 5th place in the Excellence in Ag contest and even more blessed to watch friends place in front of me! Seeing their success and hearing their stories inspires me to keep educating my urban animal science students about agriculture, raising sheep with my husband and K, and to be more involved with YF&R. I already can’t wait for the next event and I know K will enjoy it as well. She loves being with Matt Matt and DoDo and meeting new people so it’s the best of both worlds for her!
To kind of tie up all of my ramblings I want to end this blog post with words of encouragement for you to join YF&R! As a first time attendee I was so welcomed and I can’t tell you how many people asked if K and I were having fun, did we need anything, and if we would be at the next event. We had a great time with awesome people!
Thank you for reading!