By Craig W. Anderson

Amber McDowell, San Joaquin Farm Bureau program assistant, graduated from the 2019 Leadership Farm Bureau’s year-long training program in a ceremony held Dec. 9 during the 101st CFBF Annual Meeting in Monterey..

Amber’s family farms pears near Walnut Grove and runs a pheasant-hunting preserve..

The nine-member class acquired enhanced background in communications, team-building, advocacy, and the Farm Bureau organization during seven sessions totaling more than 250 hours of instruction.

“Each instruction session was three full days,” Amber explained. “The program requires real commitment and I highly recommend Leadership Farm Bureau as it’s a great opportunity to network with people throughout California, as well as various counties and states, to build relationships for better ag and Farm Bureau advocacy.”.

“I feel I’ve become a better advocate for Farm Bureau and farming in general by participating in Leadership Farm Bureau,” Amber said. “I’ve learned how to connect more effectively with elected officials and our members.”.

The class advocated on behalf of Farm Bureau in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. “I really liked the trips we took, especially the state legislature day. The trips gave us the opportunity to speak up about agriculture issues directly to state and federal legislators and to build relationships with them.”.

She said most appeared eager to learn more about ag and that “we learned about the areas they represented and their challenges.” The legislators varied in their approach and attitude with “some California legislators more interested in what we had to say depending on their district’s location. The federal legislators were generally respectful and interested in hearing our personal stories which helped them relate to what we had to say.”.

She said both groups “promoted their ideas” but not all were well-versed on the issues and “political-speak” was prevalent. Half of the staff members they met “were familiar on the topics and the other half, we educated and discussed what they needed from agriculture and how we could help them.”.

The topics provided by CFBF, SJFB and AFBF were, she said, “hot topics” including water issues, trade, wildfires and immigration..

The team-building portion of LFB contributed to each participant’s personal development and aided their discussions with legislators, including a meeting with French Embassy officials while in D.C. “Their farming and agriculture are very similar to California’s,” Amber said..

The group also met with American Farm Bureau and CFBF representatives..

Field study trips were taken to Northern California – Tuolumne County; Sonora and Oakdale with the main topics centered on forest management and water issues, and the Pacific Northwest – Washington state where discussions centered on international trade and water issues; a tour of Grand Coulee Dam. “These trips were excellent,” Amber said. “It was good to get out into areas we probably wouldn’t see otherwise.”.

The classroom work on topics such as ag issues, governmental policy and personal development proved fruitful as the group learned about CFBF and AFBF policies and “there’s always something that’s an eye-opener,” Amber noted. “With team-building we got to know our classmates and something about ourselves as well.”.

“The LFB was a very worthwhile experience that provided a variety of tools and experiences about agriculture and we received training in how to relate to and work with the media,” Amber said. “The Leadership Farm Bureau program is a really great opportunity.”.

The 2019 Leadership Farm Bureau class also included Jocelyn Anderson of Willows, Shane Bickner of Lemoore, Cody Dodson of Tulelake, Alana Fowler of Penn Valley, Anna Genasci of Oakdale, Brian Greathouse of Sutter, Brian Medeiros of Hanford, and Ian Vietti of Visalia.