Thirteen high school seniors from across the state participated in Oklahoma Farm Bureau’s Oklahoma Youth Leading Agriculture conference June 14-17 in Oklahoma City.
The OKFB Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee host the annual conference, which is designed to prepare high school students for a career in agriculture and to advance leadership skills. Participants of the conference were high school seniors selected through an application process.
The four-day conference provided students with the opportunity to tour local agricultural enterprises including American Plant Products, Oklahoma National Stockyards Company, Restore OKC and Whitmore Farms. Students volunteered at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, learned how to share the story of agriculture with the media and completed a team-building ropes course.
“OYLA is truly something that taught me so much. The experience and relationships are immeasurable, I got to meet so many important people involved in the industry I love,” said Lexie Zuniga, representing Major County Farm Bureau. “They really tried to show us every area of agriculture, from production agriculture to communications to advocacy.”
Representative Anthony Moore shared the importance of the legislature in rural Oklahoma and sharing the voices of farmers and ranchers. Students also listened in during debate on Oklahoma House of Representatives floor at the state Capitol before being recognized.
Students also heard from agricultural leaders including Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur and Director of Continuing Education for the Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Beef Cattle Specialist Rosslyn Biggs. Various agriculture industry groups shared their work to move agriculture forward including Oklahoma Pork Council Executive Director Kylee Deniz, Oklahoma Agricultural Cooperative Council President and CEO RJ Gray, Radio Network Oklahoma Farm Director KC Shepard, Leadership Exchange Academy Executive Director Mike Robins and Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom Professional Development Coordinator Annie Davis.
“OYLA was one of the best experiences,” said Mason Factory, representing Lincoln County Farm Bureau. “We got to meet so many people from Representative Anthony Moore to Kelli Payne. I made 12 new friends for life in my fellow seniors and this camp truly changed my life for the better.”
The conference also allowed students to gain more knowledge about Farm Bureau by hearing from OKFB President Rodd Moesel, OKFB Director of Membership and Foundation for Agriculture Holly Carroll, OKFB Women’s Leadership Committee Chair Mignon Bolay and American Farm Bureau YF&R committee member Alisen Anderson.
The thirteen students were Macy Shelton, Carter County; Halle Pullen, Garvin County; Luke Tate, Grady County; Kage Collins, Johnston County; Haley Pedon, Johnston County; Weston Knowles, LeFlore County; Mason Factory, Lincoln County; Lexie Zuniga, Major County; Clarissa Smith, Okfuskee County; Mattie Morgan, Rogers County; Mason Tucker, Roger Mills County; Hunter Wilson, Texas County; and Kellen Bradford, Woods County.
Participants attending the conference plan to pursue a variety of careers including agricultural communications, animal science, agribusiness, diesel mechanics, mechanical engineering, plant and soil science, agricultural education and health sciences.