By Maggie Edwards
Ninety-six high school freshmen and sophomores from across the state gathered at the Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana Nov. 14-15 for the Alabama Farmers Federation Youth Leadership Conference.
Students enjoyed team-building activities and outdoor recreation while hearing from Mike Lutzenkirchen of the Lutzie 43 Foundation and participating in leadership workshops facilitated by high-energy, high-impact trainer Rhett Laubach.
“In a nutshell, we bring students in to learn a lot about leadership development, but along the way, we want to make them advocates for agriculture,” said Federation Young Farmers Division Director Hunter McBrayer, who helped organize the annual conference. “No matter what county or background you come from, we need good leaders for our community and state, and we need good voices for agriculture.”
Youth Leadership Conference, free for attendees, was sponsored by the Federation, Alfa Insurance, Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation, Alabama Ag Credit and local Farmers Federations. The Federation received a record number of applicants this year — well over 200.
During the two-day conference, students were challenged to step out of their comfort zones, find their strengths and realize their influence on others. Federation State Young Farmers Committee members also shared agricultural career insights and advice during a panel.
Laubach encouraged students to be their B-E-S-T, or “better every single time.” Laubach pushed students, such as Jamyracle Williams, to understand leaders are observers, trustworthy and positive.
“Everybody can be a leader, but not everyone has the tools or the voice to be a leader,” said Williams, a student at Marbury High School in Autauga County. “I found my voice here.”
Fellow attendee Lyndee Meadows did, too.
“I grew up in agriculture raising and showing cattle and pigs,” said Meadows, a student at Woodland High School in Randolph County. “I will use everything I learned from this conference and take it back into my agriculture experiences to promote and share it with others.”
Applications for the 2023 Youth Leadership Conference will be available in September, with the conference held in November.