The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s virtual Young Ag Professionals Winter Leadership Experience this weekend was an opportunity to build personal and professional experience while networking with agricultural leaders.
The theme for the 2021 Winter Leadership Experience was “Cultivating Progress in Times of Change.” The event, thanks to the support of Heritage Sponsor Nationwide and Platinum Sponsor Farm Credit Mid-America, offered participants the capability to connect with industry leaders and see several exciting new opportunities to engage and network with others from around the state.
“Just as in past years there will be a lot of great ideas and lessons to take away from the Winter Leadership Experience,” said Charlie and Casey Ellington, chairs of the Young Agricultural Professionals State Committee heading into the meeting. “The engaging speakers and diverse sessions that are lined up will give everyone a chance to learn from others as they look to grow personally and professionally.”
Rob Sharkey, host of the Shark Farmer Podcast, kicked off the meeting. Sharkey, known in digital circles as The Shark Farmer, is not your average Illinois grain farmer. He’s a disrupter who is unwavering in his ability to directly address controversial topics. With the hog crash of ‘98 in the rearview mirror, a turn-key outfitting business thriving and a handful of acres demanding more time than is warranted, the only logical step was to launch a podcast. His provocative style parallels a story-based structure, which resonates with thousands of weekly global listeners. He shared with attendees his story that brought him from the verge of bankruptcy to one of the top agricultural podcasters in the country. His journey helped him save the family farm in the process.
The event also featured 20 unique breakout sessions covering topics from traditional farming, young professionals and niche and specialty growers to business management, consumer engagement and more. One popular breakout session was with Ty Lilly and Martha Channell from Seven Acre Farm in Dublin. They left corporate jobs and started growing high end, nutrient-rich microgreens, primarily for the restaurant market. Of course, all of that changed abruptly in 2020 when the business had to pivot to find new markets. They shared how they had to evolve accordingly.
Matt Rush was another keynote speaker who takes good and makes it… GOODER. He has served as the former CEO of the New Mexico Farm Bureau and past president of the Ethos Leadership Group. He also previously has served on the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture board of directors. Rush is passionate about his values, helping others and is dedicated to “planting the seeds of greatness” by developing a strong, successful future for current and upcoming generations.