Tag Archives: YF&R

“Who will stay with the sheep?”

It’s Christmas time in our small, mountain town. The trees are flocked and you can see the breath of our horses as you drive by, their coats warm and thick against the cold. Just last night our little town performed a Christmas pageant celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. My Mom and I were the directors, she in charge of the narration and I the music. It was a chaotic event with Mary, Joseph, angels and of course the beloved shepherds. They, along with their woolly counterparts brought back memories of a Christmas not too many years past. A Christmas that I will never forget, not because of the presents or the lights or the caroling, but a Christmas remembered because of a simple story.

Who Will Stay with the Sheep - Photo 1

It was a Sunday, and like all Sundays we attended church in our little town. My friend had been asked to speak this Sunday, and she shared a personal story by Sheralee Bills Hardy. Sheralee told of taking her four young sons to watch the dress rehearsal of the area production of “Savior of the World: His Birth.” Her husband was playing the important role of Joseph, and he had spent months preparing for the performance. The weeks leading up to Christmas had been intensely involved for her husband, and the family had felt the absence of their husband and father. Sheralee told how, as she watched her husband perform, she felt envious of his important role. “Wouldn’t it be nice,” she thought, “to be in the spotlight rather than the designated behind-the-scenes babysitter?”

Not proud of her feelings, Sheralee had prayed for strength to overcome her self-pity and the desire for a more glamorous and visible role. The play continued, the shepherds hastening to meet The Messiah. The shepherds had waited all their lives, dreaming of the day when The Savior would appear. Now the Angel of The Lord had come, hastening them to Bethlehem to behold the wondrous event. The shepherds hurried from the stage, all but one, an old man remained motionless. A young boy, his grandson, returned to the stage and asked, “Grandfather, aren’t you coming?” In his reply, was the answer to Sheralee’s prayer, and a great lesson to us all: “I’ll stay with the sheep.”

Sheralee felt the love of the Savior at that moment, and she now understood. Her role as mother had seemed menial, but now it took on a greater significance. She would care for the spirits entrusted her. While bedtime stories didn’t end with an applause, she knew her role was important. She would “stay with the sheep” so others could see the babe in Bethlehem.

This story has stayed with me and I have thought of it often since. At the time of hearing the story, I had a three-week-old baby, and Dustin and I were newly-elected as our state’s Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) Commitee chair. Although the position is filled as a couple, only one serves on the board of directors. So, often times I would stay home and take care of our five daughters and the ranch while he was traveling for board meetings. Dustin and I are partners in every sense of the word. We ranch together, we run our hay business together. Dustin is the best dish-doer in the business! He really does more than his share of housework. The Utah Farm Bureau Board of Directors was really the first time in our married life that we were, in a sense, going our separate ways. Ashamed, I admit, there were times I was envious of his “spotlight.”

YFR Orientation

Being involved in Farm Bureau, I often get the opportunity to attend various conferences. More than once, when a keynote speaker has been addressing the audience, have I wondered, “Who stays with their sheep?”

I have looked at the past and present national YF&R Committee chairs. The current chair, Zach Hunnicutt, has an amazing wife. Just recently, he attended the National FFA Convention with the rest of the committee while his wife, Anna, stayed home with their three children, one of them a new baby. She stayed with the sheep. Past YF&R Chairwoman Chris Chinn has really taken ag advocacy to a new level. She has children and a hog farm at home. Is her husband the sheep tender? What about AFBF President Bob Stallman, who tends his sheep while he is away? Our state Farm Bureau president is very good to recognize his brother and partner as the reason he is able to serve in that capacity. I have never met his brother and wouldn’t recognize him if I saw him on the street, but my hat goes off to him.

All of us have people we need to thank – husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, partners, parents, men and women – who stay with the sheep so we have the opportunity to be in the spotlight from time to time. We know that having good agricultural people in positions of leadership is important, but crops don’t water themselves and livestock need daily care. Make sure this Christmas you remember to thank the one who stays with your sheep.

As we say in the West: From our Outfit to Yours, Merry Christmas and may you have a prosperous New Year!

Life After PAL?

How many of you have been to a conference or training that was amazing and impactful and then you get home and you put the binder of information on the shelf to gather dust? You may utilize a few strategies or ideas, but for the most part you don’t utilize many of your new discoveries. That’s where my friends and I sit today. Three modules, four days each, lots of homework and now we are nearing the end of a chapter in our lives! PAL Class 6 has completed the PAL modules and we have a bit of homework to complete before Graduation, then we will each have a chance to reevaluate our own destiny.

First, PAL (Partners in Agricultural Leadership) is a program offered by some great sponsors including American Farm Bureau, Monsanto, and Farm Credit that is an intense two-year leadership training and development experience. The class is made up of 10 young farmers from very different farm backgrounds across the country who were selected to grow in their leadership ability for agriculture.
The next piece of the puzzle is that not only did we focus on leadership development; we also spent time on engagement and the political process. Some of the greatest learning came from fellow class members and learning about agriculture in their world.

We are filled with excitement and ideas, but what do we do with it? What is the right choice for us as individuals and does this match what is best for our ag and food industry? Opportunities to be engaged and active in agriculture exist, so what activity do we jump into next? The members of this class are ready to hit the ground running with new ideas and abilities. Life decisions abound!

I am blessed to have five amazing kids and a few responsibilities so it adds another level of thinking before making decisions. Many of us have spouses that have stayed home with the farm chores and the kids to make it possible for us to be involved in activities like PAL. Do we take the risk to move on with exciting leadership opportunities? As a working Mom, how do we make the call to move on to the next opportunity in work and life? In a perfect world, I would help on the farm and volunteer for any and all ag advocacy opportunities. Life isn’t perfect and I do enjoy my job, but is working full-time best for my kids? Would it be worth the risk to not have health insurance and be able to have time to start a farm fresh/direct farm business on top of what we are already doing with some of the knowledge I have gained? There are always conflicts in life to work through, but when you have a conflict between commitment to family and commitment to a passion for the future of your industry, what is one to do? I wish I had some great ideas on how to answer these questions, but I do believe there are some consistent ideas that would work for all of us and other decisions that are very individual. The best ideas so far: pray and communicate with those closest to you to measure the pros and cons. No matter what path life leads you on, make sure to make a difference and share your passion!

Congrats PAL Class 6, we survived, but now we have to survive in the rest of our real life and make an impact beyond a safe learning environment of role plays! Look for us at the AFBF National Leadership Conference and Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference in Phoenix this February and ask us about our experience or share your ideas on how to better make these risky life decisions.

What A Week!

Last Tuesday we headed to New Orleans, LA, for our Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation 90th Annual Meeting. The fun started with registration on Wednesday and ended with a very productive voting delegate session on Sunday. 

We had a very busy but successful YF&R Day on Thursday.  It started early for the YF&R Committee and YF&R Contestants. Pictures, Discussion Meets, and Excellence in Ag Presentations filled the morning hours and led right into lunch. And if you have ever been to New Orleans, you know what I mean when I say everything usually revolves around all of the good food!!! Then Thursday ended with the 90th Annual Organization Awards Program awarding those throughout the state for all of their achievements. The list is long, but Congratulations to those awarded from all over our state and Thank You for all that you do. 

The Women’s Committee meeting kicked off Friday! The talent contestants had practice while others watched the Talk Meet. Later ladies attended our Ag In The Classroom Workshop and then everyone enjoyed  the AITC Ice Cream Social after General Assembly. The evening closed with the talent show honoring junior and senior talent contestants from many different parishes. 

Saturday is always very energetic because nobody is ready for convention to come to an end.  We began early by getting our Queen’s contestants ready for the night while others attend the many commodity conferences. We have Women’s Brunch including a style show given by our Queen’s Contestants while the gentlemen continue to attend the many commodity meetings. And now for the moment we have all been waiting for….and the 2012-2013 Louisiana Farm Bureau Queen is….Rebecca Ann Simoneaux!! 

On Sunday it all came to an end with a Memorial Service honoring our the members we have lost over the past year and the election of our 2012-2013 State Board. 

It was hard to say goodbye to all of our Farm Bureau Family but after such a great meeting we returned home “rejuvenated and excited about Farm Bureau activities, programs, policies” and farming!