By Ashley Jeffers-Sample, Arizona YF&R Committee Secretary and U of A CALS Graduate: Curious what Arizona Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers are up to? Everything! I mean, everything!

But, to spotlight one of our important events, let’s go on the grand tour of one of the largest spring community outreach events we participate in.

Arizona Farm Bureau Young Farmer & Rancher Chair Cassie Lyman, veteran YF&R member Angie Newbold and YF&R member and blog author Ashley Jeffers-Sample pause long enough in their busy schedules for a picture at the Expo.

Every year in March, the Arizona Game and Fish Department hosts its largest event at the Ben Avery Shooting range. Designed to connect with the public, the Expo provides loads of family activities all revolving around outdoor activities. The Arizona Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher program participate in the event by hosting a booth.

As an active member of the group, this was the first year that I had the opportunity to be involved in the Arizona Game and Fish Expo, and what a great year it was! This year’s Expo set an all-time attendance record, as the two-day event drew more than 46,600 visitors!

When walking around you could find multiple attractions, including conservation, recreation and educational booths. But, the place to be was the Arizona Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) booth. You may ask yourself what is the Farm Bureau doing at the Game and Fish Expo? Well everyone eats and the people that attend the expo are there to learn about outdoor recreation. Lucky for them, anyone coming to our booth learned that ranchers provide habitat for wildlife and allow the public access to the land that they ranch on.

 Ashley Jeffers-Sample talks to Arizona families about Arizona agriculture and ranchers' work in keeping public lands healthy. 

The Arizona YF&R feels that it’s important for us to be there to have conversations with Arizona families who like to recreate on public lands. Being there provides us an opportunity to talk to families and remind them that the 2% of the population feeding everyone is also the same ones making a way for families to recreate in beautiful open Arizona lands.

In my own conversations with some of the Arizona families I met at the Expo I was able to explain, “The Arizona agriculture industry provides affordable, healthy food and we care for the land while we do it. Without ranchers improving water resources and maintaining habitat there wouldn’t be the abundant wildlife that so many Arizona outdoorsmen and women love so much.”

The expo provided an amazing opportunity for YF&R to talk to attendees about issues facing the bee population, the Mexican Grey Wolf Reintroduction, and how to be respectful when utilizing public lands. These were all relevant topics that caught people’s attention, opening the door up for conversations.

One of the many things that I enjoy about events like these is the wonderful learning environment that it provides to not only to the public we are speaking to but also to ourselves. I am constantly learning from the senior members in YF&R. For example, during the Expo Arizona YF&R Chair Cassie Lyman and veteran member Angie Newbold served as two great educational resources for me. I was able to hear their stories, see how they tied their family and livelihoods into talking to the consumer and learned how to talk about issues in a way that related to our audience.  This is one of the many reasons that I am thankful to be a part of YF&R.

We did have many wonderful conversations with Arizona families passing by. One man, from Montana, stopped and talked to us about the reintroduction of the Mexican Grey Wolf and how his state had implemented a similar program. He provided us with some insight about the effect to which the wolves were having on the ecosystem, which could be in fact what we would be experiencing if the reintroduction continues. We were even reminded of how big our “Farm Bureau family” is when we had Farm Bureau members from Indiana stop at the booth and tell us how much they enjoyed the American Farm Bureau Annual Meeting hosted in Arizona just a few months earlier.

The conversations were endless. We talked to moms, children and other organization representatives. If there was someone walking by our booth I can assure you we gave them an “Ag Mag” and did everything we could to strike up a conversation with our Arizona families.

The Arizona Game and Fish Expo impacts all who participate. For example, 51% of visitors to the Expo surveyed say they plan to buy outdoor equipment because of their Expo Experience. So, if we’re going to have more outdoor enthusiasts enjoying the public lands that our Arizona ranchers maintain, then we’re going to be there to educate them on the vital role we serve in keeping those lands healthy and beneficial for multiple uses.  

I have only begun my journey as a YF&R member and look forward to many more opportunities in the future to engage with the public and advocate for my industry. This year the message the American Farm Bureau is driving home is ENGAGE! I recently asked myself what does it mean and why should I engage? I think it’s important as members of the Arizona Farm Bureau that we engage with the consumer no matter if it’s on our turf or theirs!

Conversations are necessary and in an age where everything can be found on Google, we need to do our best to have face-to-face interaction with consumers to be those myth busters and true advocates of Agriculture.

Want to be part of an engaging YF&R? Arizona YF&R members ages 18-35 are invited to join us at the YF&R retreat June 23 and 24 in Gilbert for a day of industry tours and leadership workshops. Look us up on Facebook for more information.

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