County Farm Bureaus recognized for outstanding performance with Impact Awards

Ten county Farm Bureaus received a special honor during Indiana Farm Bureau’s convention: the Impact Award, which recognizes counties for efforts that result in a significant impact or an increase in political influence and clout.

This year’s Impact winners were honored for achievements in four categories: influential organization, issue engagement, public relations and education, and young farmers and youth.

Influential organization

Decatur – “Meet the Candidates” night for county commissioners and county council. Multiple candidates were running for county commissioner and county council positions during the 2016 primary, and so the Decatur County Farm Bureau decided to host a “Meet the Candidates” night for all of the candidates. All attended, as did 25-28 Farm Bureau members, and the event was also covered by both the local radio station and paper, significantly increasing the number of people reached.

Pike – Agribusiness Forum. Bringing together the Pike County Farm Bureau, Pike County Economic Development Corporation, Pike Central FFA and other local organizations and businesses, the Agribusiness Forum was designed to answer the question of how farms can diversify to allow the next generation to work the family farm. Seventy people attended the event.

Issue engagement

Clark County – Vote “No” campaign (Greater Clark County Schools referendum). The ultimate objective was to defeat a school funding referendum that would have raised property taxes by just over 39 cents/$100 assessed valuation. Clark County Farm Bureau joined forces with Greater Clark Taxpayers for Fiscal Responsibility to educate voters. From Sept. 1 through Election Day 2015, county Farm Bureau members and others used signs, letters to the editor, TV interviews, festival booths, and targeted door-to-door neighborhood visits to connect with voters. In October 2015, a letter was sent to all county Farm Bureau members that explained the organization’s position. The result was a resounding defeat of the referendum with 24.9 percent in favor and 75.1 percent opposed.

White County – CFO ordinance changes. In reaction to controversy about the siting of a confined feeding operation, White County officials wanted to implement an ordinance that would negatively affect livestock production in the county. White County Farm Bureau wanted to ensure that the ordinance wasn’t overly restrictive but would still benefit the community. It organized a meeting of farmers and agribusinesses to discuss the issue and followed that up by carrying their concerns to county officials through one-on-one meetings, public hearings and ag producer meetings. The result was a new ordinance that struck a balance among the various interests.

Franklin County – Livestock zoning. The Franklin County Area Plan Commission proposed changes to county zoning that would have all but eliminated confined feeding operations in Franklin County. Livestock producers needed a strong, organized and educated voice at the February plan commission meeting, and Farm Bureau helped organize that voice. In advance of the meeting, 125 producers met to discuss the issue and to select a committee to represent their interests before the commission. In the end, the changes were not made to the zoning code.

Public relations and education

Clay County – Books to Barn project. Presented during three days of the 2016 Clay County 4-H Fair in conjunction with the Clay County Extension Office, the Books to Barn project helped children learn more about agriculture by combining story time with activities that include a tour of a barn. Groups of children were read a book that highlighted a farm animal. Each child also received the book to take home. After story time, more information was given about the animal, and the children were taken on a tour of the barn to get hands-on with the animals they were learning about. Children who attended also receive monthly newsletters for the year with a book each month.

Rush County – Expanded Ag in the Classroom program. In 2016 the Rush County Farm Bureau decided to expand the reach of its AITC program and educate more non-farm children about the importance of farming. The program reached 2,169 children in elementary and pre-school, but volunteers also presented a program to 125 children and 25-30 adults called “Ag in the Park” as part of the Rushville City Parks Department’s summer camp. Other activities included a program for 4th graders at Caldwell Pioneer Acres in Rushville; a booth about fruits and vegetables at the Fitness Fair sponsored by Rush Memorial Hospital where they reached 300 people; and presentations to 4-H clubs and at the Rushville Library.

Young farmer and youth

LaPorte – Lawnmower winterization. The LaPorte County Young Farmers offered lawnmower winterization in December 2015. They charged $40 for full service on a push mower, including oil change, spark plug replacement, air filter replacement, blade sharpening and miscellaneous repairs. The objective was a team-building service project that could involve every member of the Young Farmers. All proceeds were donated to the Indiana Agrability Project, a non-profit organization that aids Indiana farmers who have a physical disability.

Shelby – Increasing youth involvement in the county board. As the members of its county Young Farmer committee neared the end of their YF tenure, the Shelby County Farm Bureau board decided it was time to reach out to potential members on the lower end of the age spectrum. So in 2015, the county Farm Bureau added voting board member seats for one representative from each county FFA chapter and one representative from 4-H Junior Leaders. In all, a total of five youth members were added to the board.

Vermillion – Drone School. Vermillion County’s Drone School (organized in cooperation with Fountain, Warren and Parke County Farm Bureaus) was born out of a need to attract young farmers to Farm Bureau. Held Aug. 22, the program drew 170 people interested in learning more about this technology. It was promoted via Facebook, Twitter, flyers and email, local media were contacted and high school FFAs and ag classes were invited. While Vermillion County won’t be able to do a project of this magnitude every year due to the cost (the total budget was more than $4,500, only a portion of which was paid for by a state Farm Bureau Foundation grant), the idea is to use it to jump-start its Young Farmer program, perhaps focusing on another hot topic in a couple of years.