While one of the smaller member states, Arizona Farm Bureau usually has a strong competitive presence during the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) Annual Meeting, held this year from January 19 to 24. And it happened again this year. Much of this is all thanks to our Young Farmer and Rancher program where our youth can compete in Discussion Meet, Achievement Award, and Excellence in Ag. This year, Arizona Farm Bureau’s YF&R competed in the Discussion Meet and Excellence in Ag and placed in both!

Dalton Dobson (far right) makes it to the Sweet 16 National Competition during the Salt Lake City, Utah AFBF Convention.

Saturday evening, the Cultivation Center announced Graham County’s Dalton Dobson as a Sweet 16 candidate and slated to move on with the other 15 candidates.

“The Discussion Meet allowed me to not only meet a lot of really cool young agriculture professionals from around the country but also pushed me to develop a greater understanding of our issues,” said Dalton Dobson. “The Discussion Meet is a great competition that helped me develop my skills to be a better leader and advocate for agriculture.”

While Dobson did not move on to the Final Four, his placement in the group of 16 was a tremendous achievement when as many as 35 to 45 states annually compete in the Discussion Meet at the AFBF Convention.

Later that same evening, the Excellence in Ag Top 10 was also announced, and Ashley and Ben Menges were among the Top 10. This sent them on to compete with the nine other finalists for the big announcement late Monday morning during the closing general session.

And place they did! Ben and Ashley Menges placed second in the national competition!

“While working on specific issues related to agriculture is what Ashley and I are passionate about, the best aspect of our involvement in Farm Bureau is the lifelong friendships we have made,” said Ben Menges, runner-up in the AFBF Excellence in Ag Competition. “We’re forever grateful to all our friends, Arizona and New Mexico Farm Bureau members and staff, who helped us prepare for the competition. We are proud to have represented Arizona agriculture in this arena and we look forward to our involvement in the years to come.”


Ashley and Ben Menges came in second in the Excellence in Ag competition in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Sunday’s slate of activities included two general sessions, 12 workshops, the live pitch competition for the final four Ag Innovation Challenge teams, and AFBF President Zippy Duvall delivering his keynote remarks during the opening general session, and the coveted state award winners were announced. Plus, Arizona Farm Bureau President Stefanie Smallhouse said the opening prayer during the Opening General Session, a recognition given a state showing the most member growth that Arizona earned with an overall growth percentage of 8%.

The Farm Bureau state coming in with the largest percentage of member growth is asked to give the opening prayer. This was Arizona Farm Bureau President Stefanie Smallhouse's honor this year in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Arizona Farm Bureau was all over the opening aspects of this annual convention. Former AFBF Women's Leadership Chair and Arizona farmer Sherry Saylor was the main speaker for the Sunday Service that occurs prior to all the events of the day. Her powerful message was a testimony to the resilience of farmers and ranchers all over the country and their faith in God.

Sherry Saylor gave the message at the Sunday Service before the activities of the convention began. 

The Awards of Excellence recognize state Farm Bureaus that demonstrated outstanding achievements in four program areas: Advocacy, Coalitions & Partnerships, Engagement & Outreach and Leadership & Business Development. Arizona Farm Bureau once again placed in all four categories and was recognized on stage.

The mid-general session, which began at 4 p.m. Mountain Time, featured an informative and motivational keynote address from global futurist and best-selling author Jack Uldrich.

Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed the closing general session on Monday, where he announced more than $200 million in loans and grants for fertilizer production and renewable energy.

“I think it’s important for us to recognize as a country the incredible contribution that is made by farmers and ranchers and producers that, indeed, makes our country the strongest and most powerful in the world,” said Secretary Vilsack. He also discussed conservation, consolidation, and loss of farmland.