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Michigan Young Farmers at national conference in Omaha

Kent County-based goat guru Nicole Zaagman (left) with AFBF President Zippy Duval and his wife Jennifer at the recent Young Farmer & Ranchers Conference in Omaha.
Date Posted: March 18, 2024

Nearly 900 Young Farmers and Ranchers convened in Omaha, Nebraska March 8-11 for the American Farm Bureau’s annual YF&R conference. Jam packed with incredible keynote presentations and informative breakout sessions, the conference provided ample networking opportunities and exciting entertainment. 

Keynote speaker highlights included: 

Dr. Rick Rigsby’s thought-provoking Saturday morning message challenged us to be great by focusing on doing ordinary, daily things better than others, starting where we are, using what we have and doing what we can.

Sunday morning we heard from a terrific panel of fellow farmers about their mental health experiences in connection with the Farm State of Mind initiative. As farmers, we learned it’s important to dispel the stigma and have vulnerable conversations about mental health. 

Monday morning, AFBF President Zippy Duvall encouraged us to dig deep into our faith in the Lord and trust Him with our lives as farmers. Zippy’s points included not underestimating yourself and a reminder that the Lord has a plan and a purpose for your life.

There were intriguing and educational breakout sessions all three days of the conference. Some of the session topics included agriculture advocacy, public policy (specifically what’s happening in Washington), business basics for beginning farmers, work-life balance, agri-tainment and agritourism and much more. 

On Monday Young Farmers and Ranchers set off for their selected afternoon tours, including Scatter Joy Acres, a local animal-assisted therapy farm, and the Gifford Farm Education Center farm school where we enjoyed a full hands-on experience with sloths, reindeer, cows, goats, wallabies, sheep and even a porcupine!

Evenings were never boring, with abundant networking opportunities; an evening party at historic Union Station, home of the Durham Museum; a Sunday evening dinner where Michigan was an honored recipient of a Harvest For All Award; and a Monday outing at the Kiewit Luminarium for incredible food, learning, activities and entertainment. 

Special thanks to the Farm Bureau staffers and Young Farmer committee members — locally and nationally — who worked tirelessly to make this conference such a success. Your efforts did not go unnoticed! Additional thanks to all the incredible sponsors who helped make this conference possible. 

Kent County Farm Bureau member Nicole Zaagman spreads joy with pygmy goats as a life and business coach.

Megan Sprague headshot

Megan Sprague

Young Farmer Programs Specialist
517-679-5658 [email protected]