Farm Bureau President Shows Value of Young Farmer/Rancher Program

First-generation farmer learned the ropes thanks in part to Farm Credit support

Bringing new farmers and ranchers into agriculture and helping them succeed is an important priority in California and across the nation. As in many fields, the average age of farmers is rising. In fact, the most recent U.S. Census of Agriculture showed that the average principal farm owner in 2012 was 58.3 years old, up from just 50.5 years in 1982.

That’s where the California Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers and Ranchers program comes in. The program develops leadership skills and networking opportunities for people between the ages of 18 and 35 in a wide range of agricultural-related occupations.

And providing strong support to the program is the Farm Credit Alliance, consisting of Farm Credit associations in California and CoBank, a national cooperative bank and member of the Farm Credit System. Since 2008, Farm Credit has provided $316,000 to help fund Young Farmer and Rancher conferences and events along with the CFBF Annual Meeting.

A perfect example of the program’s value is Jamie Johansson, who was elected California Farm Bureau president in 2017. An olive grower and olive oil processor in Butte County, Johansson is a first-generation farmer who said he owes his success in large part to the YFR program.

Johansson started Lodestar Farms in 1993 when his parents moved from Humboldt County to Oroville to build a home. The 20-acre parcel had mature olive trees from the area’s past as a prime olive-growing region, and so the young man said, “Let’s give farming a shot.”

“I needed a mentorship opportunity, and through YFR I met other people and was able to get advice from my peers,” Johansson said. “It helped me realize there was a place in agriculture for everyone and it’s a great way to create more farming families.”

In the years since becoming a farmer, he has helped lead the rebirth of California’s olive oil industry and now farms 80 acres to produce award-winning oils.

 

Leili Ghazi, president of CoBank’s Western Region Agribusiness Banking Group, said Johansson’s story demonstrates how important the YFR program is and why Farm Credit has supported it so strongly.

“Helping to encourage and nurture new generations of farmers and ranchers is an important priority for Farm Credit. California helps feed the nation and indeed the world, and it’s vital that we keep our farms operating and prosperous for decades to come,” Ghazi said.

 

“The information that younger farmers learn at the Annual Meeting, the YFR Leadership Conference, and their Discussion Meet contests is invaluable, and Farm Credit is pleased to play an important role in keeping these events happening.”

Johansson explained that a Discussion Meet is not structured as a debate, but rather as farmers talking with each other at a coffee shop. By learning to hear others’ perspectives and discuss important topics with an open mind, the competitions build leadership skills and mold farmers into better spokespeople for agriculture.