By Allie Cushnyr, Chair, Kern County Young Farmers & Ranchers
Why YF&R? This is the question I asked myself 5 years ago and continue to push myself to consider as we work to maintain and grow this group of young professionals. Originally, I joined the Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) because I had recently graduated from Cal Poly and was looking for a way to meet others in agriculture. I was born and raised in Bakersfield, but farming was new to me, and I didn’t know many others in the ag industry.
My first experience with this group was in July of 2015 when I was watching the news on a Saturday morning and saw some young agriculturalists running a Farmer’s Market. It was at Farm Credit West on 7th Standard Road and benefited the building of a community garden at the Boys and Girls Club. I knew that I wanted to get involved with them and help with the cause, so I showed up offering assistance. Little did I know that I would spend the rest of the morning volunteering with people I didn’t know, but we all shared the common goal that we wanted to help others. I don’t believe many people would have just showed up after seeing it on the news, but I can tell you it was worth it. I could tell right away that the group was warm, welcoming, and something that I wanted to be a part of.
During my time with the Kern County YF&R group I have made great friends, learned about other sectors of ag, volunteered, and ag-vocated. Best of all, it’s FUN! This group has been supported by so many fabulous individuals and companies who have hosted us for meetings like gleaning fruit at Murray Family Farms for donations to the food bank or touring the sale yard at Western Stockman’s Market. Plus, we’ve hosted so many wonderful speakers over time including Mick Gleason, Vince Fong, the Rural Ag Crime Division, Kern County ACP/HLB, and even a local ag recruiter who helped our members with resumes and answering their questions about the interviewing and hiring process.
It’s the combination of the individuals between 18-35 years old and those who support the Young Farmers and Ranchers who have made this group successful and enjoyable. Without the people who are willing to open their doors to host meetings, give tours, donate produce to the Farmer’s Market, or be a speaker in a barn or conference room, we wouldn’t be able to grow into the well networked ag-vocates we are today.
Why do I share my story? To let you know that while it can be intimidating to show up to a meeting on your own, not knowing a soul, it will be worth it in the end. Or bring a friend who is also in ag or wants to learn more about the industry. Why do I mention the people who have supported us throughout the years? Because we continue to need your support and willingness to host a meeting in the future.
This is my call to ask you to help us grow this group. Are you 18-35 years old? Do you want to meet others or make lifelong connections? Are you living or working in Kern County? Maybe you want to make a difference in someone’s life by giving back your time to help build our next garden or collect canned goods at a future county fair. Shoot, maybe you know someone who needs that extra push to jump in and join our group. Meetings are usually free. We encourage YF&R to be Farm Bureau members, but it is not required. Just show up and be open to meeting new people and learning something.
Do you want to support those who are in that age range? Do you have a farm, ranch, ag production facility, nursery, etc. that you would like to host our group at? Maybe you want to speak to the group and/or host a dinner for our members? Is there a field with leftover produce that can be gleaned and donated to the food bank? These are all great options for how you can support your local YF&R. By supporting this group, you are encouraging young professionals to put down roots here in Kern County. It’s a great way to give back to the community through the hard work of this group. Plus, you can share your knowledge that should be passed down to the next generation of agriculturalists. We are looking for innovative ways to safely host meetings as Covid continues to be a concern.
We are in the middle of planning out the year, so please reach out to me at our email below to get on our email list, host a meeting, be a speaker, or whatever else you may have in mind to help support our efforts in 2021.
Our next meeting is on February 5th at 6:30pm. We are doing a Ag Trivia Night on Zoom and the winning team gets 4, $25 gift cards! RSVP via email.
Email: email@example.com Instagram: @kern_yfr