A hundred years ago, Herbert Hoover – then the Head of the U.S. Food Administration- is quoted as saying, “Who the hell speaks for agriculture anyhow?”  Food rationing and price controls had placed growers in the difficult position of choosing between patriotism and their own viability. American Farm Bureau historian, S. Truelsen, described the farm economy at the time by comparing a barrel of flour to a modern barrel of oil.

It’s interesting, at that time farm and food policy was focused on food conservation . It was pledged across the country, “One meal every day and all-day Wednesday in every week, I eat no wheat. One meal each day and all-day Tuesday in every week, I eat no meat…”

County Farm Bureaus existed, but were mainly about educating the farmer, not broader communication or impacting farm policy. It wasn’t until after American farmers and ranchers played a critical role in winning World War I, that farmers realized they needed a unified voice to represent them in national policy discussions. County farm bureaus united across the nation into the strongest grassroots agricultural organization existing today. We work together to further the entire industry as a whole and all segments within it.

Stefanie Smallhouse, Arizona Farm Bureau's newly-elected president.

When I look out to the membership of Arizona Farm Bureau, I see multiple generations and first generations, organic and traditional, local and global growers who produce vegetables, grains, cotton, beef, lamb, nursery plants, citrus, dairy, fruits, nuts, wine grapes, forage crops, sod grass, honey and hops. We have agri-tourism and agribusiness, teachers, community leaders and volunteers, a city councilman, a county supervisor, cooperative extension, environmental consultants, bankers and insurers.  When we speak with one voice, we are powerful because of our diversity and our deliberation over the issues. We each have our specialties and opinions, but we are all focused on the sustainability of food and fiber production in Arizona and the U.S.

Today we still hear food pledges of sorts, Meatless Mondays on college campuses and the vilifying of wheat, corn and biotechnology is everywhere, but not for reasons of food conservation. Consumer awareness about food is no longer fully centered on abundance and affordability, but a growing concern over health, animal welfare, and the environment. This cannot be ignored.

Through membership growth, support for our county farm bureaus, relationship building and strategic planning we will continue to represent farmers and ranchers on these issues and many more.

Perseverance is the story of agriculture .  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Perseverance is not about what you have come through or what lies ahead of you, but what is in you.”  On his recent visit to Arizona, AFBF President Zippy Duvall stated we have GRIT. In fact, GRIT has actually been defined as passion and perseverance for long term goals. Angela Duckworth, a psychologist, has determined four key assets to a gritty individual:  interest, practice, purpose and hope.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I would like to say a few thank you’s.

I’m thankful to all of you, the members of the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation. Without you and the other 24,500 members my own family’s voice would not be heard over the clamoring of special interest.

I’m thankful to our staff here at AZ Farm Bureau for your passion and commitment to this organization:  Carol, Melissa, Paula, Peggy Jo, Christy, Amber and Ana. A thank you to our directors and executive staff:  Chelsea, the tip of the spear on Washington St.; Julie, who amplifies our voices beyond our own fencerows to millions of people; Katie, the educator of young minds – the next generation who will impact policy and consumer choice; and Ellen who keeps us on the straight and narrow in the mine field of administration.

I’m thankful for our insurance partners and the agency force whose hard work every day sustains our programs and insures our homes, businesses, and lives giving us piece of mind in times of trouble. I’m thankful to all of those who purchase Farm Bureau Insurance, for you are a supporting Arizona’s farm and ranch families.

We have leadership programs for the up and coming generation, we are in hundreds of classrooms every year teaching our youth about “where their food comes from”. We have a strong presence in the atmosphere of social media and at the state capitol we are respected for our integrity and straight forward grassroots message.  We educate, communicate, and advocate for your livelihoods and family heritage year-round for just the cost of a membership.

We are about people and purpose . People come and go - leadership, members and staff -  but our purpose remains the same for now almost 100 years. People are what make Farm Bureau dynamic and agile to adjust to change, but purpose is what makes Farm Bureau a steady force with lasting impact, regardless of the change happening around us.

We are a close fraternity of specialized Americans contributing to the food security of this nation. We are a primary industry contributing to the economic stability of our state and we are a people deeply rooted in the land and water. This is what is important for us to remember in both good and challenging times.

I am truly honored to be entrusted with the office of the President for the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation.

I am excited to serve with you and the AZFB Board of Directors for the advancement of our industry, the protection of your businesses and livelihoods, and in preparation of the path for the next generation to thrive in Arizona agriculture.

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