Presidents’ Conference Focuses on Unity

Perry, GA

With agriculture being so diverse and spread out across Georgia, bringing together industry leaders to discuss issues facing different areas of the state can be challenging. However, it’s a gap the Georgia Farm Bureau President’s Conference looks to bridge by gathering the more than one hundred and fifty county presidents under one roof.

[Tom McCall – President, Georgia Farm Bureau]
“The good thing about getting all the presidents from all over the state together in one room is they get to know each other,” says GFB President, Tom McCall. “We have a good many new presidents that were elected back in the Fall. This is their first conference here. We want the guy from South Georgia to know the guy in North Georgia, so they’ll be able to talk to each other and know who they’re talking to, especially when it comes to a legislative issue that we need help all over the state.”

That type of cooperation between farmers will not only help them on their operations, but also strengthen an already heavy presence in the legislative arena.

“Our people up there are top notch, trusted, and reputable. So, we want to get all our people to be able to help them take care of farmers,” says McCall. “Farmers are who we look after. That is our main goal, is our members and our farmers and that’s what we all get together and talk about what we can do better to help them promote the largest industry in the state.”

Aside from the networking, a number of informational sessions were also available such as connecting with the younger generation and a new priority issue, the mental well-being of farmers.

[Lily Baucom – Executive Director, Georgia Foundation for Agriculture]
“They say that farming and forestry and other ag related professions is the most stressful industry. We found that actually sixty-five percent for first generation farmers are having thoughts of suicide at least once per month,” says Lily Baucom, Executive Director of the Georgia Foundation for Agriculture. “The data is extremely startling. We’re trying to look in on how to support different demographics like first generation farmers, like female farmers, farmers of color who have a different and unique set of stressors.”

While an uncomfortable topic to discuss, having a more open dialogue is the first step in combating the problem.

“You are your best asset on your farm and without you, there is no farming. So, I think it’s something as simple as talking about ag safety on the farm is really how you fold into talking about this issue. But if we don’t talk about it, we’re not going to address the stigma. And so, we’re trying to do more sessions and presentations like this, working with county farm bureau leadership so it is a topic of conversation and people feel more comfortable sharing what they’re going through,” says Baucom.

With so many different commodities and regions of the state represented at this annual event, the takeaway is really quite simple.

“I want us to be able to take ideas back home whether it be from north, middle, south, wherever from in the state of Georgia and use those ideas from different people that we may not have heard to follow along on the eighty-five years and growing to make us grow better over the next year for our future generations,” says McCall.

By: Damon Jones